I've really been enjoying all the cute photos of  toddlers posing on St. Nick's lap around CafeMom lately. There are some in February 2006 Babies, and here's a few more Santa shots in the CafeMom Newcomer's Club (both groups require membership).

It's pretty remarkable, though, how many of the pictures look exactly like the one at left. These tots are so not digging the big guy in the red suit.

Moms have been talking about their kids' fear of Santa in Answers.

Says redlily08, "My MIL took my daughter to see Santa last year (she was 18 months old) and now we have a picture of her screaming in Santa's lap. Poor girl. I'm not going to go out of my way this year to see if she's still scared of him or not!"

Why are toddlers afraid of Santa, the jolly guy who brings them toys? And how can we get them to stop ruining our pictures! :)

"Kids are often afraid of clowns and other people in costumes because they cannot see their faces," says Scott Osterfeld a parent coach at myparentingsource.com. "Kids often read people and their approachability through facial expressions and body language. When their faces are covered with a big, billowy beard and their body language is masked through a stuffed pillow and a hat drawn close to their eyes, intuition kicks in."

The experts agree that coercion could do more harm than good. 

"A child should NEVER be forced to sit on the lap of someone they perceive as a very unusual-looking, strange man!" says Marcy Axness of quantumparenting.com, an early development specialist and parent counselor. "You risk creating a traumatic memory around the whole Santa thing, so best to let it go for a year or two."

If you absolutely must have that Santa snap, here are some tips to convince your little elf to cooperate:

  • Ask Santa if he'll let you AND your child sit on his lap (though Santa may like that little too much).
  • Try empathizing. Tell them "Other kids are scared and nervous, too. It's okay to feel that way."
  • Let your toddler pose beside Santa.
  • Use the fake-out technique, says Cynthia Scheibe, professor of psychology at Ithaca College. Hold the baby or young toddler facing away from Santa, back toward him, and then place the child on Santa's lap while he or she is looking at other people. You might get lucky!

If all else fails, you can always try EmmieandMom's solution:

  • "I take a picture of my 18 month old and Santa separately and put them together on my editing software. It's better than listening to her yell."

I'd love to hear some of your Santa shot strategies, and see some of your photos ... share the links here!