Sensory-friendly Photos with Santa

The annual Santa photo is a great way to capture how your children grow and change each year. However, for those of us with special sensory needs, the busy and noisy mall environment can be overwhelming.

We have a list of Santas who you can meet in a comfortable and calm environment before the hustle and bustle of the busy pre-Christmas shopping begins.

Find your nearest sensory friendly Santa from the list below.

#1: Sylvia Park, 286 Mt Wellington Highway, Mt Wellington, Auckland

santaSanta loves spending time with everyone, and from the 16th to the 18th of December he will be available at his Sylvia Park home for those children who find the normal hustle and bustle of a mall overwhelming. While Sylvia Park is best known for its array of fashion and buzzing atmosphere, during this period it will be transformed into a quiet, calm environment for families whose children suffer from sensory processing disorders, allowing them to meet Santa. For an hour, the shopping centre’s lights will be dimmed and music turned down to accommodate these families, ensuring no child misses out on the magic of meeting Santa.

– Monday 16th December – Wednesday 18th December, 8am-9am
– Sylvia Park Santa Set (near Peter Alexander). Bookings essential.

Find out more 

#2: The Palms, Corner Marshland & New Brighton Rds, Christchurch

Santa at the PalmsPrivate Santa photo sessions for children with special needs and sensory processing disorders.

These exclusive sessions are held before most of the stores open and no background music to avoid overpowering senses.

Private bookings are essential and offer no queues and an understanding Santa.|

– Saturday 7th and 14th December 2019,  7am – 9am
– Sunday 8th and 15th December 2019,  8am – 10 am

Phone 03 385 3067 to book.

Find out more 

#3: Queensgate Shopping Centre, Queens Dr & Bunny Street, Lower Hutt

lower huttNo queues, no music, no spotlights, and a chair next to Santa.

Sensory Santa is an inclusive event for families with special needs. Get a photo with Santa in a sensory-friendly environment.

Available 7 December 2019 (8am to 9am) and 8 December 2019 (8.30am to 10am). Booking essential.

Find out more

#4: North City, 2 Titahi Bay Road, Porirua

north city

Sensory Souls presents Sensory Santa for families with special needs children who may require a quieter, less chaotic, and more controlled environment.

Sunday 8 December 2019, 7.45am – 9.45am.

Spaces are limited – book now.

Find out more

#5: Bayfair, Mt Maunganui


Private Santa photo sessions for children with special needs and sensory processing disorders. No crowds, loud noises, music or bright lights.

Monday 2 December: 6.00pm 7.00pm
Friday 6 December: 8.00am 9.00am
Wednesday 11 December: 2.30pm 3.30pm
Sunday 15 December: 8.00am 9.00am

Book Sensitive Santa with the Customer Service Team.

Find out more

#6: Westfield Centres, 4 Auckland locations

hamiltonThere’s so much happening at your local Westfield this Christmas with fun festive activities! But there’s still an opportunity to calm things down and get a photo of your child with Santa in one of the Sensitive Santa sessions.

Bookings are essential. Check your local Westfield for dates and times.


  1. dawnblyth 06/01/2019 at 9:29 pm

    This is a great idea. It means children with specific needs don’t miss out.

  2. Shelz69 06/01/2019 at 1:18 pm

    What amazing idea, I know so many young children who would love this and it would be perfect for their children with anxiety and sensory issues. It nice that they too can get to meet with Santa but in a environment that is more suited to them.

  3. Alezandra 04/01/2019 at 8:22 pm

    Oh wow, never heard of this before. This is a good idea for those who want to get a great Santa photo. I do get tense if I hear a kid crying out when getting a photo taken with Santa – the feeling that they are being forced just irks me. But these groups of people are doing something different.

  4. Shorrty4life1 03/01/2019 at 3:55 pm

    This is such a perfect idea. I’m forever going through all my kids Santa photos seeing how much they have grown from year to year. I actually found one yesterday from when my daughter gave Santa a present as she decided he needed to get a present coz he’s always giving to everyone. She gave him a naked barbie. It was so embarrassing. He ended up getting a photo of my daughter and he was holding the naked barbie lol. Was so funny

    • Shorrty4life1 03/01/2019 at 3:57 pm

      Also great idea for people with special requirements. Not everyone likes to have noise etc

  5. kymmage 31/12/2018 at 12:48 pm

    As a parent to a child who has sensory issues this is so amazing to me. I love that we are being more inclusive. My own kid never has an issue with the whole Santa thing but I realise we are very lucky in that respect. And many kids who struggle still really want to interact with Santa and they should be able to.

  6. felicity beets 27/12/2018 at 12:28 pm

    I think that it is great idea to make it easier for parents with children with sensory challenges. The no queues part would also make it a lot easier for children.

  7. SarahBlair 21/12/2018 at 11:36 pm

    This is amazing! Making life a little easier for kids with sensory issues and their parents is such a wonderful thing to do. Kudos to all the places that have thought to do this!!

  8. MuddledUpMolly 20/12/2018 at 10:07 pm

    It is so nice to see more and more businesses and individuals acknowledging the additional needs of some of our more vulnerable members of society by providing them with opportunities to participate in ways which they are more likely to be comfortable with. Awesome!

  9. Micht 18/12/2018 at 7:28 pm

    I love this idea….with neighbours with kids that are autistic i know it would mean peace of mind for the mum cos she didnt have to worry about them messing up another childs experience in public and also having a special one on one with a caring Santa which means they can relax and enjoy what other kids do…

  10. Bevik1971 18/12/2018 at 11:47 am

    Good idea I guess, I just think we can go a bit overboard with things like this. Hate to think how much a private sitting with Santa would cost??

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