The first year I had a child in preschool I committed all sorts of faux pas (hey, pick up and drop off can be tricky!) There are sorts of opportunities to screw things up especially around holidays. I didn’t even think to ask my friends with older children for advice! But let Mother Jennie help you out a little. Here are some Valentine’s suggestions that I’ve found to be true in the six schools we’ve attended in three states.
Even in preschool you can’t show up with just a card (unless that is your school’s rule). Some kids do, of course, but they’re probably first-timers or they live with their dad. You have to include some candy or a pencil too (I’m not making the rules, just reporting them!) If you only have one child or this is your first-born the temptation might be to go overboard and give an entire goodie bag of plastic crap from Oriental Trading. Please spare us. Don’t get carried away; it’s tacky and smacks of desperation (“pleeeease be Jaden’s friend!”). Bonus points if you can come up with some sort of cheesy pun that ties the valentine and treat together.
Back in the good ol’ days my kids went to a private school that forbade candy or goodies with Valentines. While that was a charming and very welcome idea, they got us back by strongly suggested we make homemade valentines. You know what a pain that was? Trying to get your kindergartner to stay on task long enough to make twenty-something cards? It took days! Now I come up with a valentine that mostly I create and they can do an easy part of: gluing things together or sprinkling glitter. It doesn’t seem as totalitarian that way. Please don’t leave it up to your child. This isn’t the Science Fair; it’s not cheating of you do it. You need it to be cute but not obnoxiously so. And now with blogs and Pinterest and that old standby Family Fun magazine there are a jillion good ideas out there. Yes, you can get those gross boxed Valentines sets but yuck! (I’ve bought those some years when I’ve had a new baby and can’t get my shiz together). And just say no to anything commercial like Transformers or Sponge Bob.
Probably the worst first-timer gaffe that parents of preschoolers and kindergardeners make is to address valentines. Do not expect illiterate people to be able to hand cards out to the proper recipients! You will spend twenty minutes dragging your child from desk to desk madly flipping through a big stack of valentines trying to get them in the correct “mailbox”. This doesn’t sound like a big deal but I swear you will want to kill yourself by the time you’re done. Little Gracie will be much too distracted by the “decorate your own cookie” station and Valentine Bingo to care about giving cards to the right people. Just have your child sign each card (or you can sign it if they’re really young or not quite good at writing yet). If it really weirds you out having an empty “to: ” space, just write “to: my friend”. That way it doesn’t matter who gets each card. So much simpler.
This year I have three kids in elementary school (about 70 valentines for all three classes) so I wanted to do a small (AKA cheap) valentine that works for girls and boys. I went with matchboxes (cute and interesting enough that large amounts of candy aren’t necessary). Matchboxes are less than a dollar for a pack of ten (and the fact that I get to keep all the matches is a big bonus to a preparedness freak like me). The kids decided on a theme of “frogs”; nice and gender-neutral. I spent a couple of hours finding some cute frog designs online (I got everything at Letteringdelights.com) and designing wrappers for the matchboxes. I gave the kids gluesticks and they went to town. Pretty easy. This is what we ended up with: