How many of you have had the dreaded experience waiting as your child wrote his name 20 times on a paper Valentine only to be dropped into a paper bag or box of some random child? Valentine’s Day is definitely a Hallmark holiday. Yes, it’s to celebrate friendship and love, but that’s likely not how most children view this. For most kids it’s about what kind of candy they’re going to get or how many Valentine’s they’ll receive…all these Valentine’s that really no one put much time into.
Prior to last year teaching preschool I didn’t do much for Valentine’s Day with my classes. We always had cards out for the kids to make to bring home for their family members or friends and set up our dramatic play area as a post office. Being with a new school program last year I felt compelled to do something. Many of the families had children who had attended the program before and their past teachers had celebrated Valentine’s Day within the classroom.
It was incredibly important to my co-teacher and I that we come up with a plan that would be meaningful to the children, build upon our close classroom community and celebrate the relationships that we have within our class. Being that our school is at a nature center we also wanted to be conscious of our use of paper and other items that would eventually be thrown out.
For some preschool students writing their name takes little effort. In fact, some are even ready to start learning how to write their last names. However, for others this is a skill they’re very much still working on. When we ask them to write their name it better have meaning for them especially when it’s not easy for them to do. Asking young children to do meaningless tasks only takes away their natural born desire to learn and grow.
After much discussion, my co-teacher and I came up with a plan that we truly believe meets our goals for our class and still meets the cultural desire for something to happen in the class around Valentine’s Day. This was our second year implementing this plan and we will continue this tradition for many years to come.
Here’s the plan:
- Each child makes ONE Valentine at home, no bigger than an 8 x 11 sheet of paper. No restrictions beyond that as far as what’s on it.
- Child writes his name on the Valentine. For those that are ready they can write their last name too.
- No candy or toys attached to the Valentine’s.
- On Valentine’s Day each child brought in their Valentine and placed it in a mailbox we had set up. Teachers each placed one Valentine in there as well.
- During our group time each child had the opportunity to come up to draw out one Valentine. As they did this we helped them read it, looked at it and taught them how to properly thank the classmate who had made the Valentine (for some this was purely verbal, some added a high five, but most included a hug). When a child’s Valentine was chosen it was then their turn to draw a card out. This took some self-control to wait, but the anticipation was pretty exciting and rewarding!
- Everyone went home with ONE Valentine and knew exactly who the Valentine was from. Many of the kids held their one Valentine like it was a treasure!
- Anticipating that some of the children might struggle with letting go of the Valentine they had made, we recommended to parents to have their child make two (one to place in the mailbox in class and one to stay in the backpack) if they thought this might be harder for their child to understand. We know this is a comfortable way for children to learn the idea of giving, so even for the one or two that might be sad about letting go of their Valentine it’s an experience worth having.
***We did this with our early childhood family education class as well. Each child and adult brought a Valentine. We wanted the kids to see that their parents are part of this community too. In other words, it’s not just a class for the kids, but for the parents too. This worked out well, but for the sake of time and the attention span of those who are just shy of three, I would tweak this and simply have the parent and child bring one Valentine together. Both their names on the same Valentine. I think it would have met the same need without making the kids have to sit so long.
One of our families is going through a hard time. I stopped by their home the other day to visit with them and there hung predominantly in their living room the Valentine that their child got in class. I know if the child would have gone home with a bag full of Valentine’s from each child they wouldn’t have felt nearly as special as this one did. Another parent mentioned that her child’s Valentine was placed by her son on their mantle where he keeps other things he finds very special.