How to play Secret Santa in the classroom?

How to play Secret Santa in the classroom?
Image courtesy: Pixabay.com

Secret Santa is a fun way to exchange Christmas presents with a twist. The game is suitable for students of all ages because it is easy to organize and joyful for all participants. Secret Santa creates a sense of suspense and mystery. It is a great way to celebrate the holiday season with peers and make new friends.

With a little preparation, you can organize the Secret Santa exchange in your classroom. The game is simple even for elementary students. In today’s guide, we will show you how to play Secret Santa step by step and how to make sure everyone gets an amazing present.

Table of Contents

  1. What is Secret Santa and how to play?
  2. How to draw names at school?

· Drawing names from a hat

· Using a quick online generator

· Using the Secret Santa app

  1. How to play Secret Santa with a twist?
  2. What to give your classmate for Secret Santa?
  3. Important tips for a smooth Secret Santa exchange

What is Secret Santa and how to play?

Secret Santa is a beloved gift exchange tradition. People exchange presents in the office, at home, with online friends, and at school. The rules are simple: players draw names and prepare a present for one assigned person. And, because the game is called Secret Santa, you shouldn’t tell anyone to whom you are giving a gift.

All players gather in one place to celebrate Christmas and exchange presents. Everyone opens a gift and guesses their Secret Santa. To make the guessing more fun, students add clues and riddles. The exchange eventually leads to laughter and fun and is great for bonding with your classmates.

How to draw names at school?

Traditional Secret Santa game has simple rules. A teacher or one of the students suggests exchanging Christmas presents and if most students are in, the game begins. There are three ways to draw names for a festive gift exchange:

·         In-person using a hat

·         Using a quick online generator

·         Using a Secret Santa app.

Let’s have a closer look at each way to play.

Drawing names from a hat

This is the classical way to play Secret Santa at school.

1.       Write names on paper. All students gather in the classroom and write their names on pieces of paper. Next to their names, they can write gift suggestions to help their Santa choose a present (say, books, sweet treats, or toys).

2.       Draw names from a hat. Put all pieces of paper in a heat or Christmas stocking, and have all students draw papers in turn.

3.       Find a perfect gift. Now, each student is responsible for bringing a present for a classmate whose name they have drawn. All students should bring a present to school in advance, and the game organizer or a teacher keeps them until the exchange day.

This method has its drawbacks. A student can lose the piece of paper and forget to whom they should bring a present. To avoid this, a teacher or one of the students can write down who gives a present to whom.

Encourage the students not to tell anyone for whom they will bring a gift. If someone spills the beans, it can spoil the surprise.

If some students in your class don't get along well (which happens often in school), it is best to exclude them so that they don’t give to each other. You can do it in a free online MySanta organizer. We will talk more about it below.

Using a quick online generator

Draw names instantly and find out who gives a present to whom. Image: MySanta

Does drawing names from a box sound too old-fashioned? Then, try the techie way to draw names. This way is perfect for small groups of students (up to 9 people) or when not everyone in your class wants to participate. To randomly assign Secret Santas, you can use the MySanta online generator. Here’s how to do it:

1.       Gather your classmates together, create a new game on the site and click “Quick draw”

2.       Enter everyone’s names and start the draw.

3.       Each player takes the phone in turn and finds out for whom they will need to bring a gift. Then, they click “Next player” and pass on the phone.

4.       After the draw, all students get an email with the name of their giftee, so that they don’t forget anything.

An online generator has a few downsides. Students cannot share their desired gifts or chat with their Secret Santa. If there are 9+ people in your class, it is better to create an online game with wishlists, chats, notifications and more.

Using the Secret Santa app

Wishlists, unlimited players, secret chat with your Santa and more! Image: MySanta

With an online Secret Santa generator, you can play in person and remotely, share gift ideas you’re your Santa, and make sure that each student buys a present on time. Here’s how to organize Secret Santa using the MySanta app:

1.       Create a new game. Sign up for our app, start a new exchange and click “Online game”.

2.       Invite students by email or send them a link. You can send invitations on WhatsApp, Facebook, or have everyone scan the QR code. The number of players is not limited.

3.       When everyone joins the game, draw names. Click “Draw” and the system will show every student to whom they will get a present. You can set exceptions and peers that don’t get along well will not give presents to each other.

4.       Create wishlists. Encourage each student to write what items they’d like to get from their Santa and what not to give them. Set a budget for gifts (for example, $5) or exchange homemade gifts.

5.       Track progress. Unlike the traditional game, our online generator lets the teacher or the student who has organized the game track the progress. For example, they will see if some students haven’t bought a present, and who gets gifts for whom. Thus, they can control that each student receives a gift from their Santa.

6.       It’s time for fun! Each student brings the wrapped gift with a recipient’s name on it. The teacher puts all gifts under the Christmas tree or on a desk. Each student comes to the desk, picks the present, and guesses their Secret Santa (it is not always easy!).

And the best part: our online organizer is FREE for students and educators! Please contact our support team on chat or write us at [email protected]. Verify your student or teacher status, and organize Secret Santa at school using our generator for free.

How to play Secret Santa with a twist?

There are more fun ways to organize a gift exchange with your peers. Here are the most popular ways to exchange Christmas presents:

White elephant

In this version of the popular game, students bring non-personalized gifts of the same value (say, $5). Bring wrapped gifts that most of your classmates will like. Each player opens a gift and can either keep it or “steal” the gift that the other student has opened.

Be careful when organizing White Elephant for younger students. It is competitive and fun, but “stealing” gifts can hurt someone’s feelings.

Pass the present

Students sit in a circle and pass the present to each other while the music plays. When the music stops, whoever holds the present keeps it and is out of the circle. The game ends when everyone has a present.

Secret Santa with riddles

Each player brings a gift with a note that has clues or riddles. These riddles should have hints about the Secret Santa identity. And, if the giftee cannot guess their Santa after a few attempts, you can use a funny punishment. For example, they can act like a chicken, sing a song, or impersonate someone. 

For more creative Secret Santa ideas in school, see our post How to play Secret Santa with a twist.

What to give your classmate for Secret Santa?

After drawing someone’s name, each Secret Santa wonders what to give their classmate. You can choose a theme for a gift exchange, for example, everyone brings sweets, school supplies, or homemade presents.

Think about what your classmate likes, their hobbies and interests. If you don’t know them well, use an anonymous chat in our MySanta app. You can talk to your giftee without revealing who you are and know them better. Take a look at their wishlist to choose a present that your classmate will enjoy.

Keep the gift budget in mind. Usually, the gift budget for classmates is around $5. If you are still puzzled, take a look at a few ideas below.

Gift ideas for classmates  

Usually, students give books, sweet treats, school supplies, or homemade gifts for Christmas. Set the gift budget (usually, around $5) to keep the exchange equal. Or, encourage the students to exchange unique homemade gifts: crackers, Christmas cards, craft gifts, and personalized Christmas ornaments. Here are some gift ideas for classmates:

Gift ideas for children

Gift ideas for teens

·         Bon-bons

·         Christmas crackers

·         Candy cane lip balm

·         Christmas slime

·         Temporary tattoos

·         Animal notebook

·         Colored pens

·         Funny pencil sharpener

·         Marvel Band-Aid

·         Board game 

·         Funny phone charger

·         Trendy mascara

·         Hot cocoa mug

·         Scented hand sanitizer

·         Phone holder

·         Jade roller

·         Carmex lip balm

·         Cardholder

·         Scented bath salt

·         Leather bracelet

When choosing the present, think about your classmate’s hobbies, likes, and dislikes. Think about the activities they enjoy, their favorite movies, books, and more. If you don’t know much about the classmate whose name you have drawn, use a secret chat in our online game to learn more about their wishes.

Important tips for a smooth Secret Santa exchange

Have a backup

Even if you prepare thoroughly, unpleasant situations can happen. Some students can forget their gifts at home or get sick before the holidays. The game organizer should prepare a few spare presents just in case so that nobody is left without a present. Books, school supplies, or puzzles will work great. 

Explain the rules to everyone

Make sure that everyone in your class knows how to play Secret Santa. Discuss the budget, the date when everyone should bring gifts to school, and what to give. Explain what gifts to avoid (such as personal presents or too expensive gifts). Everyone should keep their giftee’s name secret – if students tell it to their classmates, the surprise will be spoiled.

Set the gift budget

Usually, students exchange gifts worth $5 or around that amount. Make sure that all students are comfortable with this budget. Or, you can exchange gifts that all students make at home.

Don’t force anyone to participate

If some students don’t want to join the exchange, don’t force them to play. Participation in Secret Santa must be voluntary. Maybe, they will want to join the festivities next year.

Keep track of everything

When organizing Secret Santa at school, especially with young students, it is important to monitor who gives a present to whom. Students can forget their giftee’s name, and a teacher can remind them. Or, organize the game using the MySanta generator. It shows the Secret Santas of all students, lets you chat with your Santa anonymously, and the game organizer will see who bought presents and who hasn’t.

How to make the exchange more fun?

At school, you can play Secret Santa with clues or use one of the game variations mentioned above. You can also agree to exchange themed gifts (for example, green gifts, gifts that start with T, or Harry Potter-themed presents). This will make choosing gifts easier for all Santas and maintain the mystery of the exchange.

Playing Secret Santa at school creates the holiday spirit for everyone and helps bond the classmates. All students enjoy the gift-giving and receive great presents for Christmas. With our MySanta app, you can organize the game for large groups of students, keep track of the gift preparation and ensure that everything goes smoothly.