The Valentine’s Day activities at preschool is the toddler’s version of Mardi Gras. Through the eyes of a two year old, putting on a tutu in order to bring surplus candy and bouncy balls to school, where there will be smoothies at lunch and cupcakes for snack, where the sensory table will be filled with jello-encased plastic hearts, where they will create the most astounding masterpiece of their life, and then proudly return home with a bag of treasures from their friends and the most amazing gifts to present to their caring adults.
Valentines Day is never better than it is for a toddler. In Elementary School, the pressure to pick a “cool” valentine can be crippling. We can completely skip over the terribly uncertain and horrifically awkward experience of Valentine’s Day in Middle School. By High School, romantic relationships have entered the arena and no one knows if their friend is “just a friend” or expecting flowers in their locker. Once you’re in a relationship, you never know what your partner means by “keeping it simple is fine”. A toddler at a preschool Valentine’s Day party is very likely experiencing one of the best Valentine’s Day celebrations they will ever have.
For many people, regardless of the reason, their toddler will not have a preschool Valentine’s Day celebration this year.
All the artwork, all the activity, has fallen onto the shoulders of parents, care givers, and nannies.
Pros: We get to decide how much candy and small plastic toys (if any) enter our home this year.
Cons: We have to actually plan any artwork and Valentine’s Day activities. No kind hearted teacher will be guiding those chubby fingers to create a masterpiece that will later become our favorite valentine. That is our job this year.
If you are looking around your house and feeling unprepared for a toddler Valentine’s Day of fun and memories, worry not! Here are 5 Valentine’s Day Activities for Toddlers we have lined up! Easy supplies, easy execution, easy clean up, and happy memories for both you and your little one.
Valentine’s Day Activity 1: The Art
Unlike most preschool classrooms, I do not own rubber stamps or bingo dot-ers. An art project still seemed like a necessary category on the list of Valentine’s Day activities for toddlers. While Pinterest showed me incredibly carved potatoes that could stamp perfect hearts, I barely have time to bake a potato for dinner, let alone carve one. Any sort of hand, finger, or foot prints are out of the consideration over here. For the winning activity we landed on, all you need for this art project is: Paint, Paper, Celery
Cut the celery so that you are left with just the bottom. You now have a rose shaped stamp.
Keep the celery stems, and use that end as small heart stamps! One vegetable, two very on theme stamps. And let's face it, two is enough stamps for a toddler-length attention span, and you might get recognizable shapes onto their paper cards!
Tip: Fold multiple cards and use painters tape to adhere them to your table or craft surface. Let your toddler go crazy and you end up with cards for all the family members without painstakingly convincing them to do “just one more” so that grandma isn’t left out.
Activity 2: The Snack
Lucky for us, the Valentine’s Day colors are already available on many foods naturally. You can get a beautiful Valentine’s Day feast with little to no baking! Here are just a few foods you can pick up in the produce section that are already red, pink, or purple:
- Red Pepper
- Pomegranate Seeds
- Cherry Tomatoes
- Berry Yogurt or smoothie
You can even have a special surprise at dinner by cooking naturally purple carrots and purple potatoes- no food dye needed!
If you do want to add baking to your Valentine’s Day activities, a little pink frosting will do the trick to turn your treat from fun to a full festivity. Plus, some of life's sweetest memories are made when baking with a little one! However, when it comes to making your frosting pink, I personally don’t trust the food dye I found in the cabinet above my oven for the following reasons:
- I don’t recall purchasing it
- I do not know how old it is and cannot find an expiration date
- The ingredients list seems mildly to moderately questionable
All you need for food coloring is a deep red fruit juice! My favorite option is to purchase pomegranate juice from the grocery store, or you can choose to cook and grate a beet, pressing juice out of the grated beet. If you go the cooked beet route, I do recommend you grab some gloves!
Valentine’s Day Activity 3: Sensory Bin
Today is not a day where I want to run the risk of rice and kinetic sand being dumped into my carpet. My Life Saver Mat catches a good portion of our sensory play, but some tactile ingredients are a harder to contain than others. Other days we embrace the mess, but my gift to myself is an easy clean up.
For Valentines Day sensory activities, we will have “The Warm and Fuzzy Feelings Station”.
For any sensory bin, you’ll want a large container and a few different bowls and cups for pouring and sorting.(I chose a large cardboard box for this activity, or under-the-bed storage bins work well and give plenty of scooping room).
Here are a few of the “ingredients” that will go into our station:
- Fake Rose Petals
- Pom Poms
- Craft Feathers
- Tea Cups
All of them can be picked up by hand, and don’t seem horrendous to see inside my clothing drawers or to step on in the middle of the night.
Activity 4: The Game
Next up for our Valentine’s Day activities, a good old valentines themed game. Grab a sticky note pad (or two!) and a thick black marker. It is time to wow your toddler with some very basic artistic skills.
Draw some hearts with polka dots, hearts with stripes, a daisy, a smiley face, a piece of candy… anything that seems festive to you and your little one. Here is the key step- draw TWO of each. Abe you can see what a few of mine looked like.
While your toddler is napping or snacking, choose a wall and stick one of each design onto it. Now, hide the matches around the room or house, keeping the difficulty and quantity to your child’s searching skill level. Voila! Sit back and enjoy watching them hunt for the Valentines shapes and run them back to the wall to match!
Valentine’s Day Activity 5: Heart to Heart
Now it is time for Valentine’s Day activities that add some sweet one on one time with your special kiddo. You’ll need two paper hearts. On one, write “What I love about you” and on the other, “What I love about me”. This activity will work best if you’ve already made two hearts yourself! On one, you’ll write what you love about your toddler. Their smile. Their laugh. That they try new things. The way they hug you at night. Read these out loud to your little one and let them feel cherished.
You need to lead by example on the next part! Write down what you love about yourself, and read these to your toddler, also. I challenge you to read them real things! Don’t just say you like your eyes and that you make good pancakes. Tell your toddler that you love when you are patient even though it can be hard. Tell them you love how strong you are! Say that you are a really hard worker. Then, help them to do the same.
Will your toddler say that the thing they love about you is a toy fire truck? Quite possibly. Will they say something they love about themselves is their belly button? Or Paw Patrol? Also very possible. But you should do it anyway.
You could do this heart to heart every year, or even more frequently.
We should normalize saying what we truly love about others, and what we truly love about ourselves. . If we can help our children and the children we care for learn this, we can change all the years they have ahead of them. Those years of Valentine’s Days that await them can be better if they have mastered the confidence to say the good they see in others and stand by the good they know is inside themselves. If we are honest, we could learn to do better at this as grown ups, too.
If Valentine’s Day activities could lead to anything in our home, I want it to be this: A day that reminds us to say with confidence what we love, to say it often, and to say it about ourselves. What would you like it to lead to in yours?