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Valentine's Day (observed): what's in your child's valentine box?


What was Valentine's Day like when you were a kid? In my kindergarten at Sunnyside School, I distinctly recall a special paper bag we made for Valentine's Day and taped to our desks; every kid would circle the room dropping off the little cards in the bags. Later, I remember a shoebox I decorated with hearts and in which I invested so many hopes and dreams: for candy, for childhood true love.

This year, after a few messy hours pouring paint and glitter glue onto paper at CHAP with some of the awesome urbanMamas and children, we spent several days at home cutting out hearts, gluing, and for Everett, writing silly jokes in pencil all over construction paper (interspersed with hearts of course). His favorite: a sappy saying, which he finds hilarious, from a puppy valentine book we got from last year's Valentine's Day, or perhaps a re-telling of 'Jingle Bells,' complete with toilet humor. For Truman, I ended up making little Cupid's arrows from one of his great sponge paintings brought home from preschool. He wrote his name in the "from" section. Everett had to finish Truman's task: "it's too much work!" said he, although he painted one enormous valentine for his favorite friend, from scratch.

All but one of the valentines that came home in Truman's bag from preschool were storebought, and most of them had candy attached; it didn't surprise me, as this year I read a few blog posts and Twitter statuses that seemed to indicate a backlash to the craft-drudgery of creating valentines for kids (not that I've seen, in either of my boys' schools or even my own dining room table, a Martha Stewart-worthy alternative). So I was curious: how much work did you do this year? Did you do it all and resent it? Does your school opt out of Valentine's Day? Did your kids make their own and love every minute? Or were you (like me, to hear Truman's cries yesterday morning) a wicked taskmaster bent on forcing her child to write his name a good dozen-and-a-half times? Or did you feel that siren call of the Spiderman valentines and do the store-bought thing?



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My daughter's class had their Valentine's Day party today, and it was a lot of fun. The kids decorated bags at school, and distributed their Valentines throughout the week. What impressed me the most was that just about every kid thanked every kid for every single valentine they received. I didn't do any work at all - my daughter, in second grade, opted to use her own money to buy 'boy' and 'girl' valentines, and fill them all out. She did opt to make her own for the teachers, and she seemed to really enjoy the whole thing.

My 3 year old colored in construction paper hearts (that I cut) and then we glued them on those red doilies I remember using as a child! and I signed her name on the back. Her preschool does "optional" valentines, and I was surprised that in a class of 17, only 4 other children distributed them... The school's preference was they be homemade, and maybe that (the work involved) was a deterrent. I know I consciously had my daughter start coloring several days ahead, so we could space out the task. She really enjoyed the process, and was so pleased to distribute them. And since she just started at this school, I thought it would also be a nice way to help her feel more connected to and aware of her classmates. I'm glad we did it. But yes, it was a bit of work and planning, and I can easily see how parents would opt out under those circumstances.

One kid (Kindy) opted for storebought - but he knew he not only had to write his name 22 times, but also each kids' name. We started Feb 1 and did a few a day and it was STILL painful. He got a lot of candy, but also a lot of creations.

The other kid (4) said no to store bought, but wanted to give something. We searched online and he found a heart with a glow stick made to look like an arrow with "You make my heart glow." He fell in love with them. So he cut and wrote his name. I wrote the saying and did the taping of the glow stick. He was thrilled with his creation. He got all store bought from his class and way too much candy.

my guy's preschool party was today, and there was thankfully a "no candy" edict issued by the teachers. i wasn't about to do store-bought on our budget, plus i just don't like them. i kinda hoard old magazines for collage projects that i'll get to someday (ha!), so we quite simply found pictures he liked, cut hearts out of them, and i wrote "happy valentines, from " on them. i thought he'd write his name, but he pooped out after just a few, so i finished the rest.

on a related note, at 84, my grandma still makes valentines for me every year. it came in the mail today and filled my heart with glee. for me, there's something so incredibly special about a homemade valentine. i'm hoping my boys are able to have that same feeling, and that they GIVE that feeling to someone else as they grow up.

I'll admit to store-bought this year because I decided to put my effort into having them write their name on each and attach a pencil. It was never going to happen if they also had to make them. I was surprised by the number of hand-made ones they received, my preschooler more than the kindergartner, but the kindergartener had quite a few. And very little candy, actually. They both loved giving them out.

We had to do 30 cards for school + family. He made three or four big ones with art and his name. I made smaller color copies (4 to a page) on photo type paper then cut up. Of the 30 ish we got only two others had a homemade feel about 10 had candy and most had the kids write names.

I cut out 18 hearts with "fancy" scissors from red construction paper, then gave my 5 year old a bottle of glue, some buttons, glitter, stickers, etc and he went to town. He had a great time decorating each one until I told him he had to write his name on each one as well... We started the process earlier this week and 5 minutes before we left for school this morning I was still micro-managing the "signatures" on each heart! Sheesh! We also worked together to make 2 larger, more elaborate Valentines for his two teachers--I got way too carried away with pretty papers and the sewing machine--it was so fun!

He came home with a bag full of store bought Valentines (not a single homemade one--sad!) and a fair amount of candy. He had 2 pieces, told me had a stomach ache and asked for a glass of milk and a peanut butter sandwich. I think he was fairly under-whelmed with the whole thing--seemed more excited about the Vulture he made in class, because it's "V" week at school.

Well, we were going to do handmade valentines this year for my daughter's kindergarten class. I was going to help her cut out hearts to decorate.

But, dad came home with a package of Littlest Pet Shop valentines (we should talk about these things more!). She was totally thrilled and spent two nights writing all of the names and picking out stickers for each one. Honestly, it was a good thing because we never would have been able to pull off home made. Maybe next year when she's six...

My kids are in 5th, 3rd, and preschool grades, respectively. For my older kids I picked out store valentines I thought they would like, and they filled them all out and attached organic lollipops. Last year we did not add candy and all the other kids in their classes did, so mine felt left out. I'd say about half the valentines from each kid's class (about 25 kids in each) were homemade, and all had a treat of some kind.

For my preschooler (who is 3), her Waldorf school indicated homemade valentines and no candy. I cut out construction paper hearts in red and pink of varying sizes and I had her show me where she wanted everything to go and I glued it. She also directed me where to put glue and she added glitter. Each valentine was unique, and I wrote her name on them.

For our family (kids, me, husband), the kids all made homemade valentines using the supplies we have (paper, doilies, stamps, tissue paper, ribbon, glitter). My older kids did everything on their own, and my 3yo did the same thing as she did for her classmates, telling me how she wanted them and then I glued the stuff on.

Even though we battled the stomach flu we were able to make Valentines for my 3yo's preschool class and my 5yo's kindergarten class. I really wanted to do handmade and came up with a simple idea.

We printed out "happy valentine's day" in red on white cardstock, cut them into small rectangular cards and used red fingerprint ink to make hearts out of two thumbprints. The 5yo wrote "to" and "from" on the back and I helped the 3yo write "from" on the back of his. We did attach one small candy to each card. They were cute.

We got a good mix coming home, from the very creative to the plain storebought.

Interesting that someone mentioned not doing store bought on their budget. We got a box of 35 Barbi Valentines this year for my daughter's pre-school class for $1.99. As a full-time working single mom, I barely had time this week to get my daughter (4.5) to write her name on all the valentines, and then spell out all the other kid's names to write on each one. She got fed up with about 8 kids' names left (although she did all of her own name) and I gave in and wrote those. I think maybe there was one homemade valentine in her box last night. We do a lot of art in our house, but that task seemed a bit daunting for our lives, and I imagine for the lives of all the full-time working parents who send their kids to our preschool.

My 2nd grade son got both handmade and store-bought in his bag at school. He was equally excited about all of them and they were all very sweet. Its not a big deal either way!

I completely forgot about valentines and the parties at school. my son was home sick all week, so he didn't miss out on anything, and my two girls (7 and 10) didn't miss making them (or giving them out) either...

they came home from school with some store-bought, some handmade, and plenty of candy.

BUT, all three spent four hours last evening and four hours today (still going!) making valentines for the whole family (even the pets!). at last count there were forty valentines. forty.

We gave out photos of our preschooler holding a big construction paper heart that she had decorated. 20 3x5 prints = $1.20. She wrote her name on the back and us parents helped with addressing the cards to the kids. She received a mix of homemade and store-bought and was thrilled with each one!

My son's preschool asked everyone to help their child make Valentines and to please not buy store bought ones. She also was smart enough to remind us to do them all gradually so it would be fun for the kids, not a huge chore to scramble and write their name a bunch of times the night before.
We chose a simple project of a glittered heart on a piece of paper with a lollipop attached to each one and a "to" and "from". My son wrote his name and his friend's name on each of 12 valentines, and then I did the other 17. He sprinkled the glitter on each one and chose which color of lollipop for each valentine. It was a bit of work, but a lot of fun! I'm glad we spread the work out over 3 days. It was a lot more manageable that way!

Out of my daughter's class of 24 she only received one homemade card, and most had candy attached. We made cards - printed a page of Happy V Day which my daughter signed about 12 times - and then I color copied that page so all cards looked like she signed them (cheating:) Then she wrote each child's name on the front and we attached a Chinese bookmark w/silk knot (she is in a Mandarin immersion K)

To me this kind of highlights the issue of all these kid activities that sound great, but mostly end up being more stress, cost and rush for families, instead of fun! We have opted out of attending the 'fun center' birthday parties in her class and for her own party are taking her *friends* to a community tree planting and asking for any gift to be a donation to Haiti.

If we do stuff (ie Valentines Day) I would rather have it meaningful or not do it at all. It probably helps that my daughter loves crafts and only got tired with the handwriting for the last few cards.

I have to say (as the mother of two little ones who are not even in preschool yet) I am a little appalled that schools would indicate that cards have to be homemade. I get (and personally support) the "no candy" thing, given different dietary restrictions. But to dictate that cards have to be homemade? What is the logic there? And if someone's parent doesn't have time or chooses not to take time to do all that, does that child not get to participate?

I agree with several of the posters above. Although our family has always enjoyed making our own Valentines, families should not be judged for the Valentines they choose to give out, or not give out. Seriously? Many parents do the best they can on limited time, etc. and it's ridiculous to think that others are judging them based on Valentines. My son received both handmade and store-bought cards and loved them all.

I was all prepared to buy some valentines because my husband and I work full time and we have a new(ish) baby and are already at maximum. However, my son (1st grade) said he wanted to make them. So, I cut out red construction paper in the size he wanted and he did the rest. No one was more surprised than I that he would choose to do all of them himself. Still, learning from last year, we started well in advance and only did four a day and by the last four he was kind of sick of it. He got a mix of home made and store bought cards and liked both kinds equally well.

t, are you suggesting that store-bought Valentines aren't meaningful? I would have to disagree with you on that. We did store-bought, with the characters and tattoos even, and my kids spent a LOT of time choosing who was getting which card and which tattoo. I think it was as meaningful as photocopying a drawn picture and giving everyone the same. We've done handmade in the past and I have to say my kids were more excited about the whole purchased box of them this year because that kind of thing is a rare event in our house.

I just refuse to perpetuate imported-thousands-of-miles-commercial-tie-in-made-in-China crap that isn't even easy to recycle because of the metallic inks and holographic stuff. So I'm a big buzz-kill. They'll need something to talk about in therapy along with the lack of Wii and Nintendo DS.

That said, my son (K) had fun just drawing little pictures of the Titanic crashing into an iceberg and his various other obsessions and writing his name twenty times on little squares of cardboard. My daughter (4th) made a few at home, but get this:

Her teacher gave them all pre-cut hearts of various colors and asked them to write one nice thing about each person in the class. She ended up with all these lovely affirming messages, ranging from "Yo yer kewl and smart" to "You look cute in your glasses" to "You are the best reader I know and a good listener" to "I like that you make things by yourself."

I was so delighted. There were a couple of candy bags of course, but the drive to distribute valentines to everyone in class seems to taper a bit by 4th grade and I really loved her teacher's positive, inclusive approach that didn't feel forced.

Last year we did this:

And this year we did this:

My daughter (now in first grade) didn't seem to mind writing 23 classmates' names, a heart and her name on each. The hard part for her was choosing THE perfect valentine for each classmate : )

Her classmates gave a mix of handmade and store-bought, some with candy and some without...

Homemade. Always.

Probably half that my daughter got from her 3rd grade classmates were also homemade. Most included candy. Last year, in 2nd grade, there was a challenge to make them by reusing/repurposing materials.

My son's preschool is a co-op (i.e., very few working moms), so I was surprised when the only non storebought Valentine in my son's V-day bag was... ours. (Yes, he made an extra Valentine just for himself. :) ) We had so much fun making ours, and it was a nice way to occupy ourselves in the afternoons, that I guess I'm kind of surprised we were the only ones. It didn't bother my son either way; he liked all the pictures of the storebought ones, even though he didn't know many of the references.

As for what we did, we (read: I) cut out a short sequence of 3 paper dolls (using cookie cutters) and then my son wrote his friends' names on one, his name on the last one, and I wrote "Happy Valentine's Day" on the middle. Then he decorated the front with googly eyes and heart stickers. Totally easy, totally cute.

I am so impressed that all of your preschools can write! My 3 year old is so not even working on this yet.

Anjani- I love that paper doll idea! So sweet.

jd-please don't worry that your 3 year old doesn't write! Mine didn't write his own name until the summer before kindergarten, and he's absolutely fine academically speaking! There are alot of things more important for a 3 year old to be doing than writing.

jd-even with my 4.5 year old writing, it doesn't necessarily mean anyone can read it besides me! ;)We got valentines in our bag that were clearly meant for other kids because the teachers misread them! Everyone at their own pace....(including moms!)

my little on did paining of me at school framed in a red heart. It was very quite and he was proud of his work.

Wow I'm impressed that everyone else has always made for the whole class... we've always had an exchange, where everyone makes ONE and everyone gets to take home ONE. I can't think my kid would want 30 from all the others! He barely appreciates birthday cards anymore as it is.

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