My daughter came home from school last week, begging for a video chat with Santa. How very 21st century. But what was more surprising was that my ever-practical, Elf-on-the-Shelf-mocking, not-believing-in-Santa kid flip-flopped! And I owe it to these creative and fun Santa apps we’re hearing about from our kids and their friends.
If you’ve got kids who need a little proof that Santa really does exist, check out these cool apps and websites that could help bring a little holiday magic to life right on your phone or tablet. Besides, it could save you a 3 hour wait at the mall.
The folks behind JibJab and Storybots got smart when they acquired Hello Santa (above) this year, an app that lets kids log in for a live video chat with the big guy. As in, a real chat. With real Santa. When kids talk to Santa face-to-face and he knows their names and hobbies (details a little elf like you provide ahead of time), it’s pretty magical. Plus, it’s recorded live while it’s happening with side-by-side shots of your children with Santa, and then it’s emailed to you about a week later, so you have a record of it you can save and share.
Just be advised that Hello Santa runs a tight ship. Set an appointment, log in early, and remember to give the site permission to use your camera. And be ready to call tech support if there’s a glitch, because Santa can help make children behave, but he can’t always do the same for technology.
The good news is you can schedule the call for any PC or Mac with a webcam, or even do it on your iPhone or iPad if you download the free app.
Also make an appointment now! The live chat has limited availability — Santa is a busy guy, you know — but if you miss the window, you can also get a pre-recorded personalized video message from Santa to your child delivered any time between now and Christmas eve. Check the website for current pricing which should be somewhere under $30 for the live chat.
Oh, and you can rest easy: after our video chat with Santa, my daughter got confirmation that she is on the nice list. Whew.
No wonder this app is such a huge hit with parents right now; it’s a fantastic value, because it’s really nine apps in one. You can track Santa’s whereabouts, count down to Christmas, view nice and naughty lists, and write letters to Santa. The elf updates that come in like texts are pretty hilarious too.
But what really brings it to life is the feature that lets you upload photos of your home. They’ll overlay images of Santa sneaking in to deliver the gifts which is pretty fun if you’re not a stickler for good CGI effects. Also, if you’re not freaked out by the idea that this dude is tiptoeing around downstairs while you’re sleeping. But then, that is the whole point, I guess. ($.99 on iTunes)
Every year, our favorite Santa tracker is still Google’s imaginative and colorful Santa world. Each day opens up a new experience that kids can explore, almost like an interactive gaming advent calendar. And if listening for the sleigh bells and reindeer hooves on your rooftop isn’t enough interaction for your kids, download the Google Santa Tracker app for them and show them pinpointed, ever-changing GPS locations for Santa’s whereabouts on Christmas Eve. Even we keep our eyes on this one on the 24th. (Free website, app also free at Google Play)
If proof is what kids want, proof is what you can give them with the Kringl app. Take a shot of your living room with the tree all lit up, then place the overlay of Santa right in your room, scale him to size, and voila. Very realistic. Pictures don’t lie, right? (Free on iTunes)
For years our editor Liz has been impressed with how well-made and magical her kids’ experience with Portable North Pole has been. When Santa pulls a book off his bookshelf with your child’s name and photo in it, the kids are absolutely convinced.
Your kids’ Christmas could be extra special if Santa himself calls them on the phone. Use the Santa Calls You app to customize your child’s call according to categories like whether they’re on the naughty or nice list, what they want for Christmas, or the one that’s making me laugh–why they’re on the naughty list. You also have the option to let Santa call the parents so you can trick your kid into believing you’re talking to him about their wish list. ($.99 on iTunes)
Looking for more holiday apps? Just visit our archives!