Any mum of a stroppy toddler will know that a visit to Santa Claus can go one of two ways: they could either revel in the moment by making the most out of their time being the big man or they could run away screaming, terrified of the fake beard while clinging to your leg for dear life.  

While many toddlers may be happy as Larry in the run up to the grotto visit, as soon as you try and get that special photograph opportunity, many of them head into meltdown mode - and while they may want to tell Santa that they would like a dance and play puppy  that they saw on the television, or a new scooter, for Christmas, what they actually do is run off and cry hysterically.

Photo opportunities when your child reacts like this are pretty much impossible. Instead of a pretty snapshot that would deserve a spot in any memory box, you'll end up with a blurred outline of a bawling child and an awkward Santa Claus who wishes the ground would open up and swallow him whole.  

The problem in many cases is the unfamiliarity. While the idea of visiting Santa Claus may sound like awesome fun to a Christmas-mad child, once they're there, faced with a complete stranger, with all eyes on them, things can seem a whole lot different. And then there are child-sized fears that they may not have been all that good this year after all! Here are some ways in which to stay calm, relaxed and stress-free, while also giving your child (and yourself) the best chance of a pleasant visit to the big man in red:  

•Have some snacks and toys on hand. A queue of kids waiting in line for a visit can equal an overtired, irritated and hungry child by the time you get there. Keep them entertained, and fed, when they're waiting for their turn.  

•Don't try and get your child to pose for your idea of a perfect photo if they don't want to. Sometimes, a natural shot can reveal the most natural of smiles. Plus, they don't put your child into the spotlight as much so there's less chance of them retaliating or acting all shy.

•Talk to them about how fun it will be. Tell them stories of when you were younger and visited Santa, and loved every minute. Paint the experience in a positive light and your child may be more likely to enjoy it.  

•Take them twice. This is a great idea if you're going somewhere special for a family treat. You could take them to the local grotto as a practice run, and then use the family fun trip to a Winter Wonderland as the real deal.  

•Let them take their favourite toy. Having their fave teddy or security blanket on hand will mean that they'll be calmer than without.  

Visiting Santa Claus should be a magical experience for both you and your children; hopefully it'll turn out that way this year and you'll have a great photograph to remember it by!