Deciding where to take your children to see Father Christmas is a big decision. This is the stuff childhood memories are made of – and the photos will be cherished for years to come. Parents find themselves debating whether they’re happy with a cheap and cheerful Santa at a school or church fayre, or whether paying out for a Christmas experience is worth the money. You only get a few magical Christmases while your little ones are young, after all. But what if your little one is scared of the guy in red and all that money is wasted? Like I said, it’s a big decision!
We were invited to experience I Met Father Christmas at Hamleys toy store in St David’s Shopping Centre, Cardiff. At £25 per child, this is certainly not the cheapest place to see Father Christmas in Cardiff – but it is a magical and festive experience and definitely provides value for money.
The hour-long sessions, for a maximum of 16 children, include food, singing, games, a story told by Father Christmas, a craft activity, plenty of time for each child to meet Father Christmas individually, plus a high quality goodie bag to take home. If I’m completely honest, if we hadn’t been invited as guests of Hamleys, the cost would have put me off as I have three children (Little Miss E, nearly 6, Little Man O, 4, and Toddler Boy I, 20 months) – but this really was an enchanting treat with lots to keep little ones entertained and plenty of attention to detail.
Our experience began the moment we entered the store, where we were greeted by three energetic and enthusiastic elves, singing, dancing and playing games, taking time to chat to all the children individually and giving them each a name sticker.
We then sang our way to the party room at the back of the store, and after shouting the magic word (Hamleys), the doors opened onto an enchanting Christmas-themed party table and a fireside display complete with arm chair and a fully-decorated tree surrounded by presents. Two big murals showing Father Christmas’s workshops adorned the walls, while decorations hung from the ceiling.
Food was soon served for the children – a generous buffet of burgers, breaded chicken and chips (this was Tea With Father Christmas, but there are also breakfast, brunch and lunch options available). Most of the little ones were too excited to eat, so we parents finished happily off the chips.
Next, the elves had us all singing Jingle Bells, during which Father Christmas came through the door. Dressed in a luxurious traditional red robe, the children were excited when he greeted them by name (thanks to the handy name labels!), asking them questions and remarking how much they’d grown since he had last seen them.
With the children sat around his chair, Father Christmas read us a story (The Gruffalo’s Child by Julia Donaldson), then we played a game of Santa Footsteps, where the children had to creep up behind Father Christmas, who had his back to us, and freeze still when he turned around.
Next, it was back to the craft table to make crackers and colour in Christmas cards. Many of the children chose to give their cards to Father Christmas and the elves, which I thought reflected the strength of the experience they were having. During this time, each child had a turn to chat to Father Christmas to let him know what they would like for Christmas. Parents were free to take as many photos as they liked.
Father Christmas also a gave each child a goody bag. I must say, the quality was amazing, with each bag containing a Hamleys teddy bear with an I Met Father Christmas at Hamleys t-shirt, a reindeer tree decoration, a large bar of chocolate, a full-sized pack of crayons and a Christmas colouring book. Each child was also given a ready-inflated Hamleys balloon to take home too.
After our hour was up, Father Christmas said goodbye and left the room and the elves escorted us to the front of the store. We left the shop full of the magic of Christmas, with my children clutching their balloons. Miss E and Little Man went to bed cuddling their bears, which they’ve called Bear and Christmas Bear respectively (how original!), and asking when we can put the tree up so they can decorate it with their reindeer decorations.
Like I said earlier, this certainly isn’t the cheapest place to see Father Christmas, and one of the downsides is that each child can only bring one accompanying adult with them, which is difficult if you’re a two-parent, one child family. Overall, however, it was a fantastic, well-organised experience. The elves were bubbly and energetic, all the outfits looked authentic, every child was made to feel welcome and special, the activities suited the different age ranges well, the room looked lovely, and the presents to take home were generous.
Father Christmas and Hamleys Cardiff have offered a fantastic prize for one Cardiff Mummy Says reader – a family pass for up to four children to meet Father Christmas at Hamleys Cardiff. The prize can be used for any of the sessions, subject to availability.
For a chance to win, just answer the following question.
Which Christmas song were we singing when Father Christmas entered the party room at Hamleys?
Please write your answer on the Cardiff Mummy Says Facebook page, in the comments section for this blog post, dated 27th November. The closing date for entries is 11pm, Monday 30th November 2015.
You might also like this post for more ideas of family-friendly festive things to do in Cardiff this Christmas.
You can see all my Christmas posts here.