How might we innovate Santa’s Sleigh to make his job easier?
Contributed by Kindergarten Teachers Lindsey Whitehead and Addy Devore

Christmas is a magical time in Kindergarten. Pictures with Santa, gingerbread houses, Christmas tree decorating, visits from elves, cookies, and of course, presents! As exciting as this time of year is, it is also easy to become focused on what we get versus what we give. In chapel, our recent memory verse was:

You should remember the words of the Lord Jesus: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” – Acts 20:35b

We decided to pose a challenge to the students. How could we do something nice and help someone who gives us so much? And who better to help than Santa himself?

We started by reading the book The 12 Sleighs of Christmas by Sherri Duskey Rinker. In this story, elves discover that Santa’s sleigh is in a horrible state of disrepair. They decide to have a contest to see who can build the coolest sleigh for Santa. The elves build all kinds of sleighs such as a dragster, big rig, motorcycle, blimp, and even a snowplow.

After reading the story, we flexed our empathy muscles by having a discussion about what it might be like to be Santa. What are Santa’s responsibilities? What does he think about? How might he feel? Here were some of our ideas:

Santa’s Responsibilities
– Go down dirty chimneys
– Direct the reindeer and feed them carrots
– Deliver presents throughout the world
– Think really hard about who has been naughty or nice

Santa Thinks About
– Do I have time to deliver all of the gifts? Do I have enough presents for everyone?
– I wonder how Mrs. Claus is? Is she happy? I miss her.
– I wonder how the snow and weather conditions are around the world?

Santa Might Feel
– He probably gets hot or cold depending on the weather
– He probably feels full and has a tummy ache from eating a lot of cookies and cocoa
– He probably feels nervous about having such an important job
– He probably feels tired from staying up all night long

After our discussion, with pencils and paper in hand, you could hear a pin drop as the students feverishly designed and sketched sleighs that would meet all of Santa’s needs. Their ideas blew us away!

  • Ornament turbo boosters
  • Cotton padding on the legs so the sleigh lands quietly on roofs
  • Self-flying in case he needs a nap
  • Warming seats
  • Retractable wings in case his magic fails
  • Pantry with snacks or space to store the cookies he gets
  • GPS tracking system
  • Umbrella for the reindeer
  • Manual to help him get out of trees if he gets stuck
  • Self-warming cocoa cup holder
  • A plastic roof to protect Santa from bad weather
  • The letters “SN” on the side for Saint Nick
  • Bathroom for both Santa and reindeer
  • Clear plastic roof to protect Santa from rain and snow

We selected the best parts of our designs as a class and mixed them into one final sketch. We used the sketch to build a prototype out of cardboard and other recyclable materials. 

On January 7, when the Kindergarteners returned to school, they were shocked and amazed when they received a phone call from Freddy McTwinkletoes, the Head Elf at the North Pole. 

He was calling from Santa’s phone to tell the kids that he overheard them hard at work innovating Santa’s sleigh and gave them some feedback on their ideas. Freddy also mentioned that Santa needed help with 2 specific problems- dense fog, and reindeer hydration. The students then went back to their sketches and created 2 last innovations to help out the Big Guy. 

This design thinking challenge allowed students to strengthen their Mount Vernon mind in several capacities. 

As Collaborators, they worked together to blend their designs into one final prototype and accepted and used feedback from the North Pole. As Innovators, they took Santa’s existing sleigh and made changes to help their user, Santa. As Creative Thinkers, they imagined new possibilities for Santa’s sleigh based on his needs. As Solution Seekers, they developed a plan for their sleigh and tested out their designs when building their prototype.

Most importantly, it reminded them that helping and giving to others is sometimes the best gift of all.

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