Self-serve Valentines for Kids

I’m working on a project with the San Francisco Children’s Creativity Museum, and one of the ideas we’re playing with is to create a buffet-style selection of materials for children to choose from in our DIY art zone. I’ll share some of our activities with you soon, but in the meantime I thought you might like to see how this strategy has manifested itself in my own home.

With Valentine’s Day right around the corner and a love for all-things-holiday in our house, I set up a smorgasbord of hearts, flowers, silk flower petals, shiny wrapping paper, doilies, stickers, and glue. Each clear container is filled with a thoughtfully-selected material as an invitation to make, play, and create. Oh, and invitations can be accepted or ignored. I always try to pay attention to how these things play out because, of course, I want my invitations to be accepted!!

I barely captured any photos of my 3 year old making art because I was busy cutting paper and helping Baby R. But she made a Valentine for her sister and one for me. She draws her “M’s” upside down, so my name is spelled “WOW”… isn’t that great!? N stuffed the Valentines into her light-up Hello Kitty mailbox (the hand-made Valentine box we threw together last week truly couldn’t compete with this one!) and we opened our little parcels of love up at dinner.

All in all it was a success, and I look forward to sharing more of these invitations with you soon.


Valentine Snack

Since we started cutting hearts in our house last month, I’ve grown to love Valentine’s Day in ways I didn’t foresee. Actually, forget Valentine’s Day — holidays in general have taken on a whole new meaning with children in the house. Everything is amplified. The mailman’s delivery foretells the arrival of potential Valentines. Cookies have to be made. Sprinkles are added to everything edible. We’ve had flowers in the house for the past two weeks. It’s really lovely, actually. So, I volunteered to host a Valentine activity at my daughter’s preschool tomorrow in order to spread some Valentine cheer to her friends and teachers. Initially I thought we’d bring cookies to frost, but I’d probably lose favor with some of the other parents. And, after a long week, I don’t have the stamina to turn my kitchen into a cookie factory. When I landed on the idea of frosting heart-shaped bread with cream cheese and sprinkles, I started breathing easy. They look like a cookies without all the extra sugar, and they are so incredibly easy to make! Yay.

For my test run, I toasted some bread, cut out heart shapes with our large heart cookie cutter, applied some cream cheese, and tossed on Valentine sprinkles. Voila! My plan for tomorrow involves setting up a toaster and inviting the children to cut their own hearts from their toast. I’ll have tubs of spreadable cream cheese (and jam for the lactose-free kids) with butter knives for easy spreading. And lots of sprinkles, of course. My daughter adores cooking with me, and I imagine her friends will enjoy the processes of toasting, cutting, spreading, and sprinkling. What do you think?

I turned my test run into today’s lunch — I added some hummus and turkey to the sprinkles and cream cheese, and we had a sandwich. Weird combo, I know, but my daughter ate it up!

How are you celebrating today?

Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone!!

Deconstructed Valentines

Kids Valentines Ideas  Deconstructed Valentines

Our neighborhood market does a good job at displaying an appealing array of holiday goodies just as you enter, and I’m often a sucker for such marketing ploys. They recently set up a lavish Valentine’s ordeal, and before even getting close to the milk aisle, I already had a shaker of heart sprinkles and a Fancy Nancy Valentine’s Day book in my hands.

N skimmed through the book on the way home, and then devoured every word as soon as we had a chance to sit down together. We’ve been talking a lot about this mysterious “hearts and flowers” holiday, but I don’t think it actually began to sink in until we read the book.

Once we read the book, mere moments passed before the request to “make Valentine’s cards” came in and Project Deconstructed Valentine’s was underway! It all began quite obviously with a pile of doilies, cut-out hearts, glue, and glitter.

And then the cutting began. And more cutting. Cutting, cutting, cutting. Any vision I had of  frilly Valentine’s with heartfelt messages was quickly replaced with one of hearts, cut into smithereens. A bazillion little fragments of love, splintered all of the table.

It wasn’t enough to cut up a sheet of paper. Oh, no. I had to cut hearts out of the paper first, and then hand them over for further cutting. Since we were collaborating, I was then instructed to glue the little shards to a doily, which is what you see here. A true collaboration, full of process-based goodness. And while the end-result may not be what I had in mind, I actually think we ended up with something far more interesting and fun to look at in the end.

Recipe for Making Process-based Valentine’s Cards

Although I didn’t start with this plan, in retrospect I think this is what led to our success…

  1. Look at examples of Valentine’s Cards or Read a Book about Valentine’s Day
  2. Set up some basic Valentine’s materials – Doilies, Red and Pink Paper, Glitter, Glue, Scissors, Markers
  3. Provide materials in a color scheme that will make the end product look cohesive (i.e red, pink, white, and silver)
  4. See where it takes you without prescribing how the child should make their card
  5. Gift them, hang them, or repurpose them. N wanted to decorate the house with ours, and I had a package to send off to grandma and thought this would make for a festive gift topper.

What are your Valentine’s traditions?


Sweet Potato Heart Prints

“A life without love is like a year without summer.” – Swedish proverb

Now that our light-up snowman and twinkly lights have finally come down (yes, we’re those people!), we’ve been talking up Valentine’s Day and all things hearts. While I see it as a holiday full of commercial hype and overpriced flowers, I’m reminded that for children it can be full of play and joy and loads of sugar. Mmmmm.

When N developed an addiction to sweet potatoes last week, I bought a five-pound bag of the little beauties only to find out she’s not eating them this week. Of course. So, amidst my plan to freeze a batch of roasted sweet potatoes I realized that they’d also be good for carving up some heart stamps.

So I cut one in half and carved out a couple hearts.

The heart shape rises about 1/2 inch off the potato base to help us get some nice, clean prints.


  • Potato Stamp/s
  • Tempera Paint. Acrylic works too, but you’ll see why I’m so happy I used washable tempera in just a moment
  • Brayer or Paint roller
  • Smooth, flat surface to squeeze the paint on
  • Paper for printing

I rolled out a little bit of paint so that N could cover the stamp in a mostly uniform fashion. And then she got stamping.

Lately, she’s been interested in figuring out how things work. And then once her curiosity is satisfied, she’ll move on to the next thing. So here she is, done stamping in about three minutes flat and apparently investigating the bottom of the stamp. I had to leave the room for five minutes to change her baby sister’s diaper, and now I see that perhaps she was actually wondering how that black paint would feel all over her hands and the table?

Wow! That was a surprise!

I calmly reminded myself that it’s all about the process. And thanked myself for using washable paints. On our old school table that has seen worse days.

If you try this project, I’ve added a new feature that allows you to leave a picture in the comment section.