It's when they first link eyes that the magic happens - that ancient, all-knowing twinkle meeting the pure wonder and joy of the Christmas season.
Some extend their arms and lunge into a flailing headlong checkmate toward Santa, bopping into his leg and hoisting themselves up onto his lap like a pirate boarding a merchant ship.
Others immediately close their eyes, turn their heads and run for the nearest relative.
And those are just the parents.
Santa Claus took time out from his busy holiday schedule to make a special appearance from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Children's Museum of Northern Nevada on Saturday.
Rocking back and forth in his special wooden chair, Santa took in-person requests from a line of excited children while giving them his special brand of Christmastime interrogation and posing for pictures.
"Have you cleaned your room?" he asks.
"Do you eat your broccoli and Brussels sprouts?"
"How are your grades?"
Santa, who goes by the alias "Nick McGahuey" when he's incognito in Carson City, has been wearing the floppy red and white hat for the past four years. Not surprisingly, he says it's rare to find children who admit to being anything but perfect angels around this time of year.
Donald Hurst has met Santa before. He knows the drill, all the right answers. Hop up on the lap and get right to the point.
"I want a skateboard," he says. He takes his candy cane and goes to find his little brother, who's run off somewhere.
Hailey Gunter gets a case of the giggles while Old Saint Nick asks her how she's been. She admits to getting a few "time-outs."
Then it's mom's turn to take a seat on the big red confessional knee.
"We go way back," she laughs, then proceeds to ask Santa for a carousel horse. "The big one, not the little one," she insists.
"Mostly the kids are asking for generic things this year," says Santa. "Dolls, trucks ... those kind of things." Occasionally he gets a request for some esoteric little toy or brand that he has to have the elves look in to.
Speaking of the little pointy-ear workers, Santa says they're doing very well. "We play a lot of Santa football," he says, ostensibly. It's a game that involves Santa versus everyone under three-feet tall. "They love it," he chuckles.
Twins Hailey and Morgan Weight, dressed up for their ballet performance of "The Nutcracker" in Virginia City, planned to leave some cheesecake out for Santa's Christmas visit. Hailey had her mind set on a Barbie doll, while Morgan, future "animal doctor," was looking for a giraffe. One that would fit inside her room, anyhow.
Bashful Chanell Capicola, celebrating her 4th birthday, was out with grandparents Harvey and Susan Lee. After a little prodding, she finally took hold of Santa's finger and immersed herself into the magic of Christmas.
Contact reporter Peter Thompson at email@example.com or 881-1215.