Museum offers kids Christmas shopping experience

Despite plenty of shopping options during the Christmas season, very few offer quite the opportunity that Santa’s Secret Shop at the Museum of Arts and Sciences offers.

For more than 30 years, the shop has allowed kids to come in with their parents waiting outside and purchase gifts, and museum support staffer Kristie Ussery said it’s a special kind of shift to work.

“It’s great. Everybody should come in here and experience it. ... It gives them a sense of giving to the people that they love, kind of what Christmas is all about,” she said. “You can’t be back here and not be happy.”

Ussery estimated that “hundreds of shoppers” will come make purchases from the assortment of jewelry, toys, small tools and other items available at the shop until Dec. 23. Each item costs between $1 and $10, plus tax.

Macon resident Nicole Hill, 13, has been coming to the shop since she was 6 and said she got 10 presents for parents, grandparents and friends. She spent about $30 in the process.

“It makes kids feel more independent about shopping and not rely on parents,” she said.

Nicole was accompanied by her father, Markus Hill, who said that the shop has become a “mandatory” stop as part of the family’s Christmas shopping.

“She’s picked out some real winners, especially for the grandparents,” he said.

Kate Cowart brought her kids -- Anna Kate, 11, William, 9, and Betsy, 6 -- to the shop, as well. She actually went behind the shortened door with them but was told she had to wait there.

“It’s just a good lesson for them to learn at Christmas, to give to other people,” she said.

While Nicole Hill had saved her own money for the shop, William Cowart was still a little young for wage-earning chores. Still, the experience was an enjoyable one.

“It’s really fun to buy stuff,” he said.

Nicole emphasized the “safe environment” to shop in but also pointed to the lesson parents likely hope their kids would learn from such an experience: the joy of giving.

“It’s all good quality and everything, and it makes people happy when they get it,” she said.

The shop will be open at the same time as the museum, from 1 to 5 p.m. on Sunday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Both are closed on Mondays.

To contact writer Jeremy Timmerman, call 744-4331.