Times have changed. When I was a kid, if I’d been a good girl and wanted Santa to know I’d like a monkey in my stocking (logistics are never an issue at that age), I’d write him a letter with lots of kisses, pretty drawings (scribbles) and promises of good behaviour. My mum would take it, pretend to post it, and then stick it in a folder for safekeeping until I was old enough to be mortified.

These days there are apps and services that can create a more magical experience for your child, allowing them to truly believe they are talking to Father Christmas. For parents hoping for good kids this Christmas, a call from the big guy can really help to enforce the requirement for them to behave. And there’s nothing to stop you recording the call for use as a bargaining tool in later years.

Last year Google Assistant joined the "call Santa" scene, and though this easter egg works particularly well on the Google Home Hub where you can also see graphics but works with all Google Assistant devices. Just say to Google "Okay Google, call Santa" and the Assistant will be your direct line to the North Pole. (Note that this worked perfectly when we tried it, but now appears to be available only in certain regions.)

If you don't have a Google Home and don't want to use the Assistant on your phone you can still make use of free apps and services. The free Call Santa app from Netsells is a fantastic download. When prompted it plays a recorded message that pauses just long enough to let them tell old St Nick their name, whether they’ve been good or bad, and what they’d like for Christmas.

As the parent there are a few things you need to watch out for, of course. First, if they are old enough to read then you will want to keep the screen out of sightor turn off script prompts. This shouldn’t be an issue as the app plays the recording over a phone- or tablet’s speakers, rather than a phone’s earpiece.

Second, a countdown is displayed on screen showing when the child has time to speak and when it’s Santa’s turn. If your kid clams up at the prospect of speaking to Santa, you may need to give them some gentle encouragement or answer the question for them before the time runs out and he answers the question anyway.

Lastly, they can call Santa only once. He’s a very busy man you know, with lots of presents to deliver. And good kids aren’t greedy. (Also: they will fairly rapidly work out that it’s a recorded message.)

How to call Santa for free

How to call Santa for free

To place a call to Santa download the free Call Santa app from Google Play. There are several available, but the one we recommend is made by developer Netsells. Once the app has installed click Open.

Decide whether your child has been naughty or nice and select the appropriate call button. It may be worth doing this alone the first time around to check you’re happy with what’s being said. You can also tap Show scripts to see a text version of Santa’s script.

By default the app will show you onscreen how long is left until it is your turn to speak, though you can press the button to turn off Script prompts to hide this information from your child.

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