life lesson domains


This is the gift of choice. Each child is invited to enter the toy area and select whatever toy they would like. The area is well stocked with an abundance of toys, so the last child has as good a selection to choose from as the first. Purpose: This area provides the gift of choice. Often, during times of hardship, children are expected to settle for whatever they are given. What they want becomes irrelevant. This activity lets them know that their feelings do matter, that they have choices in life, and helps them develop the thought processes necessary to make good choices.

santa visit

The Santa visit is usually the first activity the children experience at the event, so it is crucial that there is a solid connection made during their encounter with Saint Nick. All of our Santas are experienced working with children and our primary Santa is a master’s-level counselor, so they are able to quickly connect with the children. Each child is given enough personal time with Santa for them to have a meaningful experience. Purpose: The Santa area transforms the event from just another class trip into a memorable personal experience.

santa pictures

Each child is given copies of pictures of their visit with Santa for their parents. Purpose: This area provides the gift of memories. Constraints often prevent families from taking pictures of their children as they grow up. Unfortunately, time passes quickly and there is no way to replace those lost memories. The Santa visit itself is a nurturing experience designed to heal damaged self-concept by addressing their self-image, self-esteem, and sense of self-worth.

santa claus museum

Our interactive Museum includes over 100 different interactive display items related to the life and legend of Santa Claus. Children are fascinated to go behind the scene and experience a side of Santa that they never knew and to have their questions answered by the Museum Curator. Purpose: This is a fun way to teach history, tradition, science, and a healthy dose of imagination & blarney.

north pole's got talent

Formerly known as “North Pole Idol”, the children are invited to come up on the stage and sing karaoke. Those who wish to participate can sing individually, in small groups, or as a large group. The stage has the recording equipment needed to create a professional music video of each performance. Purpose: This activity helps the children build self-confidence and improve their self-image by providing them with the opportunity to perform in the North Pole Idol competition. Everyone wins and is appreciated for their efforts.

hollow tree book shoppe

This is a free book store with thousands of brand new books for every grade level. The children shop through the store and get to pick books to keep for their very own. Purpose: This activity stresses the importance of reading and encourages children to start their own personal library. Many of these children have never owned a book before this opportunity.

arts & crafts

Our volunteers provide the guidance and support necessary for the children to produce a beautiful work of art by experiencing an art medium and techniques that are probably new to them. They are typically amazed at their completed artwork. Purpose: Art is a tremendously valuable therapeutic tool that promotes healing by utilizing creativity to enhance communication. This area encourages the children not to fear trying new things, to keep an open mind with new ideas/concepts, and underscores the fact that they are capable of doing much more than they may think they are. Quite often, Free Arts for Abused Children of Arizona collaborates with us on this activity.


Each year, we try to arrange for opportunities for the children to experience a variety of animals that they may not have previously encountered. We have had a petting zoo, pony rides, alpacas, deer, and therapy dogs, but our most popular animal ambassador is Carla Meeske’s Icelandic horse, Fidla. Arctic horses are a rare breed that only lives in the arctic. While most of these exhibits are outside, you might find an occasional domestic or wildlife display inside. Purpose: Urban children have limited exposure to animals, aside from domestic pets. Contact with animals of these types is not only therapeutic but also helps broaden the experience of the children.


Puppets are used in almost all of our activities from Pictures with Santa where they can coax a smile and laughter from even the most difficult child to the reading and karaoke areas where they encourage children, giving them the confidence to perform. Purpose: Puppets offer us the opportunity to enhance our programs in many ways. Besides the obvious benefit of encouraging the children’s imagination and creativity, the use of puppets boosts confidence, increases group participation, helps to express feelings, builds confidence, improves motor skills, and increases meaningful group participation.

Polar Express

Ever since its publication in 1985 and the subsequent 2004 movie, Polar Express has become an international favorite.  The book has been printed in sixteen languages and is ranked as one of the top one hundred picture books of all time.  The movie is also a favorite. Last year, we spun-off the Polar Express items from the Santa Claus Museum to create its own stand-alone interactive display.  Purpose: 1) The introduction of the “Conductor” character provides our staff with additional opportunities to interact 1:1 with the children.  2) Through discussion of the book, we can encourage reading.  3) Most of these children have never experienced a toy train and are excited to get to operate the train controls.  4) The children get to make small paper houses and create their own village on the train layout.  This emphasizes the concept of community and cooperation.