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.

self serve valentines

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!!

toddler valentines

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. 5 dollar minimum deposit casino

valentine box

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



  1. Self Serve Valentines are the way to go…straight from their little hearts and hands.  My boys have been doing lots of repeat drawings and calling them invitations or messages.  I’ve been collecting them to use for Valentines.  Don’t know how we’ll use them yet, but I’m sure they come up with a fantastic idea.

    • I’m sure you’ll come up with something wonderful, Jena! And I like how you put this — “straight form their little hearts and hands.” Lovely.

  2. This is exactly what we do – and when I don’t the project just doesn’t work out as well! And I love that if I keep everything on a tray we can put it up when they get tired of working on them until they’re ready to do some more without it being too much of a hassle.

    • I have similar experiences, Darah. Your point about putting everything on a tray speaks to me. I’m deep into purging and streamlining our home so that I’ll spend less time cleaning and sorting. It really allows you to spend more time on projects and less time running around! Frankly, art projects can be exhausting if there are too many materials and nowhere to store them.

  3. I love this! After clearing away all the Christmas decorations, I set up a self-serve art center for the girls. Right now we have crayons, colored pencils, various kinds of paper in various sizes, scissors, and stencils. Sometimes I’ll even add washable markers or stickers to the mix. It’s been great! Now that I see this, I’m going to have to add some Valentines crafting supplies!

    • That’s great to hear that this is working for you, Terri! I find it helps to mix things up and keep it fresh.

  4. We just made Paint chip Valentines and we are planning to make more kinds in the next couple weeks! I have tons of materials for self service valentines and C has already helped herself to it all!

    • You’re so creative, Melissa. Paint chip Valentines — can’t wait to see them!

  5. Yes, this definitely works – daughter is a lot more likely to follow up on an art project when everything is set up and waiting for her 🙂 Cute idea with self-serve Valentines!

  6. Looks very inviting!  My daughter would love that set up!

  7. I love your “thoughtful collection” approach to attractively offering materials to children for their open-ended art. I’d love to know if you see a difference in how they work with this approach compared to tossing it all out on the table.  🙂  I’m truly curious.

    • If working in a Reggio school has taught me anything, it’s that a thoughtfully put together environment and project helps to inspire children to take their “work” seriously.  

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