Toddlers and preschoolers might be too young to learn about St. Valentine, but they can definitely understand what it means to love and appreciate friends and family. Host a playdate or a Valentines Day party for your little ones with some of these ideas.
Graham cracker house construction
Who says gingerbread houses are just for Christmas? Construct a basic house using graham crackers and frosting (the kind that will dry well and act as glue), then let kiddos go to town decorating a Valentine theme house.
Provide frosting to coat the building with, then offer up conversation hearts, red hots, Hershey Kisses, M&Ms, marshmallows, licorice (the licorice bites or the kind that can be peeled into smaller lengths are always popular), a variety of cereals and more. No matter what the holiday, kids always enjoy the chance to create something as fun and yummy as an edible house.
Create sturdy, oversize Valentines
Cut large heart shapes out of craft foam, poster board or heavy cardstock. You can help little ones write a message on the heart to their person of choice, then give them stickers and glitter glue, and an assortment of things to glue on like conversation hearts or Valentine-themed confetti. Watch them create a work of art.
Have a cupcake or cookie walk
A spin-off of the traditional cakewalk is always fun, and provides tasty treats. In a large open area, place large colored markers (1 per child participating) on the floor in a circle. Write “winner” or draw a picture of a cupcake on one, but make sure it’s face down. Have each child start at one of the markers (tape them down so they don’t move around), and play music.
When the music stops, have the children check their marker – the winner gets a cupcake! A variation for this game – each time a winner is declared, remove 1 marker and mix up the remainder, then have all the children who haven’t already won a cupcake play again. Or, play it like musical chairs for the first several spurts of music. When the game is done, everyone gets to enjoy a treat!
Invite friends over to enjoy a heart-shaped meal. Using a large heart cookie cutter, transform slices of bread or sandwich-thin rolls into heart-shaped layers. Kids can make them into PB&J, or provide pizza sauce and toppings for everyone to create their own mini pizzas. Serve up a red or pink beverage with heart-shaped silly straws, and end the meal with heart sugar cookies.
Make shrinking Valentines
Purchase blank sheets of shrink plastic (remember Shrinky Dinks as a kid?) at a craft store and let children decorate them with colored pencils. If you have smaller children, you can provide templates of things to trace, and help them write a special message on the valentine. When decorated, place the plastic on a cookie sheet in the oven (follow package instructions) and let the children watch through the oven window as each person’s Valentine shrinks down. Kids – and adults! – inevitably love watching shrink plastic in action.
Made bead necklaces
Even young tots enjoy stringing beads, so making a bead necklace for Mom, Grandma or a big sister is always a hit. Provide something thick and easy to handle to string on, such as round satin ribbon or even pipe cleaners, then offer an assortment of pony beads and other assorted bead
Add a game
In addition to fun crafts and activities, try one or more of these Valentine games:
- Create a heart scavenger hunt: Cut large heart shapes out of a variety of colored paper, then cut each heart into three or four pieces. Scatter the various pieces all around the room on the floor, chairs, tables, behind things, etc. Set a timer for the hunt and instruct children to find as many heart pieces as they can. When the time is up, each child should attempt to assemble hearts (one color) from the pieces they’ve collected. The child with the most single-color fully-constructed hearts wins a prize. This game can be played again and again!
- Heart races: Give young children spoons and put conversation hearts on them. The kids must race from a starting to finishing point without dropping any of the hearts off the spoon. Or, for older kids, get heart-shaped marshmallows, which are more challenging because they’re lightweight.
- Build a tower of candy hearts: Give kids piles of conversation hearts on a flat sturdy surface and have them make stacks. You can give an allotted time to stack as many as possible, and the tallest stack at the end of the time wins. Or, each person adds a heart to their tower at the same time until they begin to fall over. The child with the last tower standing wins.