Guide to running a grotto
Visiting Santa at the Christmas fair is an exciting
experience for children, so make it truly magical!
- Once a date has been agreed, start scouting around for a Santa
or have several Santas working in shifts. Enlist some volunteers as
elves, helping to manage those waiting, and organising presents.
Source a Santa outfit - can you borrow one from a local community
group or church?
- Decide what form your grotto will take. With the right
decorations and a sprinkle of imagination, you can transform almost
anywhere into a grotto! Find examples from PTAs on our PTA+ Pinterest board. Use sheets of fabric to
cover the walls, and have tinsel, a Christmas tree, empty boxes
wrapped to look like presents, cotton wool and fairy lights. Have a
large comfy chair for Santa.
- Source your gifts, taking into account your costs and potential
profit. Aim to pay around £1.50 per child. Gifts might include
selection boxes, books, or toys. On average, PTAs charge around £3
to visit Santa, including a gift. Buy toys in bulk - take a look at
our online suppliers directory.
- Have a schedule where children and parents can pre-book slots
to visit Santa. Think about how long each child will spend with
Santa - will he read a story, ask them what they want for
Christmas, or is it just a quick hello? Allocate enough time for
each child and ask them to arrive 10-15 minutes before. Will
children go in individually or in groups? If in groups, how many
can you fit into your grotto? Once your schedule has been drawn up,
start selling slots.
- Promote your grotto schedule as often as possible - on your
website, Facebook, noticeboard - to make sure no children miss out.
Ask for names and numbers to make sure you can contact people if
they are late on the day. Allow plenty of time to set your grotto
and have plenty of volunteers to hand.
- On the day you'll need several volunteers to ensure the grotto
runs smoothly. Try to give Santa the name of the child/children
before they go in, so he can make his message personal. Give Santa
a code word or signal when the time slot is nearing the end, so he
can round it up. Keep a few slots for children who haven't
Christmas fair grotto tips and advice
Finding Santa: If you're finding it hard to get
a willing volunteer to don the red suit, try asking the local
Rotary, Lions, Scouts, sports clubs or even a local councillor and
appeal to dads, grandads and uncles. Failing that, as young
children sometimes find a man in a big beard a bit scary, how about
having a 'Mrs Christmas' instead?
Two Santas: To avoid queues, many PTAs use a
two-Santa system. If you plan to do this, make sure parents are
made aware beforehand, and be cautious of having them both walk
around your fair at the same time!
DBS checks: While there is no requirement for
Santa to undertake a DBS check, it is best practice to make
sure that your volunteer Santa is aware of child protection
procedures, and understands how you would like them to interact
with the children. Have another person in the grotto when the
children are present - that person should be DBS checked. Encourage
parents and carers to accompany their children into the grotto,
Sponsorship: In an ideal world you want your
grotto gifts to cost no more than £1.50 per child, but better
still, find a sponsor to foot the bill! It's an easy concept to
sell to a local business - you can be specific about how the money
will be spent (emphasising the joy that these presents will give
the children), and the exact amount required. Offer to have a sign
saying 'This grotto is sponsored by [xxx] company', giving them
Grotto success story:
Tracey Morgan-Willcox, PTA Vice-Chair, Raysfield Infant
School (180 pupils) told us: 'We had a grotto a few years
ago which was all blacked out with a few fairy lights, but we found
some children were scared of the dark and didn't want to come in!
Last year we went for a winter wonderland theme: everything was
white, silver and blue - it was truly magical. Our decorations were
sourced locally in pound shops. We acquired an old wooden fire
surround and used this as our focal point. We bought large
polystyrene white balls which we made to look like snowballs, and
had a large, inflatable snowman. On the walls we used snow
scenes and covered the doorway with a silver and white homemade
ribbon curtain. Children were far happier to come into a
bright white lit-up snow scene than our previous grotto. We
also used a 'Santa Stop Here' sign and some Christmas music whilst
others were waiting. Each child received a quality book that was
age related (this gift went down better with parents), a selection
box or sweet tube, as well as a candy cane and a Santa's grotto
sticker. We charged £3 per child. We used a time-slot system
with parents pre-booking in the month leading up to the fair,
but we also had spare slots for those who turned up on the day. We
called children in by name and Santa made a fuss of them and told
them a short story about himself and how busy he was! We
ususally raise around £500 on the grotto alone. My advice is to go
for quality and experience rather than letting profit rule this
Download this step-by-step guide to running a
grotto as a PDF.
- No need to apply or buy your own licence (saves £40
registration fee and £20 annual renewal fee).
- No need to spend weeks begging local companies to donate
- No need to worry about what details have to go on the
- The design, printing and drawing of tickets is all taken care
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