This Is the Age When Kids Get Suspicious About Santa Claus

Sadly, it's only a matter of time.

When you really think about the logistics behind jolly old St. Nick's Christmas Eve adventures, it might be hard to believe you ever thought Santa Claus was real. The whole story about international travel and shimmying down chimneys only works with the naïveté we have during our youngest years.

Of course, kids eventually get suspicious about Santa Claus as they lose that innocent belief system. According to a 2011 study from the Associated Press, most adults admitted that they stopped believing in Santa Claus at around 8 years old. On top of that, only 84 percent of those polled admitted that they believed in Santa Claus at all as children.

The age that children start seeing the holes in Santa's story mostly depends on how hard those around them work to smooth out those unbelievable details, says psychologist Jacqueline D. Woolley. "Children are not unthinkingly credulous and do not believe everything we tell them," she explains in an interview with The Conversation. "So, we adults must overwhelm them with evidence—the bells on the roof, the live Santas at the mall, the half-eaten carrot on Christmas morning." You get the picture.

Unfortunately, though, there's only so much adults can do to keep children's belief in Santa Claus alive. A study from Occidental College in California showed that the more children grew to learn about the possibilities of the physical world, the less likely they were to believe in Santa Claus. After all, any child who's traveled by plane knows it's not possible to deliver Christmas presents to children all over the world in under 12 hours.

Psychologist Thalia Goldstein told The Cut that children go through five distinct stages as they struggle with their belief in Santa Claus. In the first stage, they think mall Santa is the real deal. They truly believe the guy in front of Macy's builds the toys, eats the cookies, fits down the chimney, and makes Rudolph fly. By the second stage, they see mall Santa as helper to the real Santa at the North Pole, but they think he still has some magic of his own. At the third stage, children no longer see the mall Santa as magical himself, but they still think he'll send messages to the North Pole.

By stage four, they no longer believe in that line of communication. And by the last stage, children—around age 8—begin to realize that the logistics supporting the existence of Santa Claus don't quite add up. While it may be impossible to hold onto that childlike belief in Santa Claus forever, the only thing one can hope is that they don't ruin it for the next kid! And for some seriously laugh-at-loud interactions between St. Nick and kids, read The Most Hilarious Letters to Santa of All Time.

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Ashley Moor
Ashley hails from Dayton, Ohio, and has more than six years of experience in print and digital media. Read more
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