All of the other takes on this topic start from a point, when a child (usually 5-9 years old) asks "Is Santa real?" Nobody yet asked "how to raise my child Santa-free?" What to say, when a two-year-old, who just noticed that there is this character on TV asks "will he come to me, too?" A toddler may not yet understand the concept of lie, of pretending, of things not physically existing. How to tell her, what will happen, what to expect, how and why other children behave differently?
My three-year-old daughter discovered Santa last spring, which finally forced me to think: how to deal with it? Ignoring the thing worked for three years, but what now? I live in an extremely catholic country (Poland), so I cannot be completely blunt about it.
In the end I decided to call it "the fairy-tale of [Santa] Claus." For me it has a lot of advantages: this is a story that can be told, retold, reinvented and everybody knows it. In addition, since the name includes the phrase "the fairy-tale", it has just as much validity as the tale of the Red Riding Hood or any TV character that she likes.
I tested some of her beliefs about "Miko". I opened the box with books intended for gifts in front of her. When she wanted to read some of them, I explained that she cannot yet read her book, because she'll get it on Christmas Eve. She asked "is it from Miko?" and I replied that in some way it is, but I bought it. She didn't insist on reading it right now. A few days ago she helped me wrap some of the gifts. She commented that action "Miko brought these so we can wrap them and give them as gifts from Miko."
Malcolm told me, that he likes best the strategy, when you say that Santa Claus is a game that everyone plays. People pretend that there's a big guy in a suit who does the thing, and if you ever let down the pretense to your friends, you lose the game. I'm not entirely convinced by this strategy - it may be too complicated for a 2- or 3-year old (since my daughter didn't wrap her mind around the information that I bought the books).
What are other strategies that you use? Or which ones you don't like? Why?