It was with unbridled glee that I received the class list of names from my son’s preschool teacher and learned they were having a Valentine’s Day party this week. Seriously, Valentine’s Day was the best when I was a kid! We got to make giant envelopes with the good construction paper, not the flimsy cheap stuff, and color and decorate all day in the name of education. We got to use glitter, and we were allowed to bring our own stickers if we brought enough to share. The next day we waited anxiously until after recess and then “delivered” our valentines to each classmate’s envelope, which was taped precariously to the end of each desk for easy access. Some of the kids’ parents attached candy to the valentines, and it didn’t get much better than that. So yeah, I was excited when I heard my kid was going to have his first Valentine’s Day party.
Granted, this is preschool so most of the kids, certainly mine, probably aren’t sure what valentines are just yet. Whatever, I saw an opportunity for a great craft project and I seized it. Plus, I’m always up for a trip to Michael’s. Follow the simple steps below if you too want a heartwarming, yet educational, homemade-valentine-making experience with your small child! You won’t be disappointed!
Objective: Assist child in creating homemade valentines. Valentines should be neither crafted with such skill that it is obvious they were created sans child, nor should they be purchased from a store in a pack of 40 where the only requirement is tearing carefully along the perforated lines.
Step one: Take child to Michael’s craft store. Attempt to quickly navigate to sale aisle before child spots the full price fancy supplies. Grab value pack of 6’’ foam hearts–this will be the one executive decision you make regarding the valentines, because you have to start somewhere. Once in sale aisle ask child what he thinks his friends would like on their valentines. Remain neutral as child decides whether they would prefer the stickers of the turtle with a heart shaped shell or a fox holding a heart out in front of it. Wait 30 seconds, then throw both packages in the cart before child melts down, silently resolving to return one later.
Step two: Ask child if they want glittery foam letters (in an excited voice) or solid color foam letters (in a monotone voice). Accept child’s choice of the solid colors, even though the glittery ones are obviously better. Why can’t he see that?
Step three: Head towards the sticker aisle, praying along the way that you don’t have to pass the car and fire truck section before reaching the heart section. Breathe deep sigh of relief that all vehicle themed stickers are way at the other end of the aisle, and that you have successfully focused the child’s attention on the vast array of hearts in front of him. Ask child if he thinks his teacher would prefer sparkly hearts, glittery hearts, or puffy hearts on her valentine, providing samples for child to choose from. Wipe tears of joy from your eyes when child chooses the glittery hearts. Attempt to exit aisle without child getting a visual on the race car stickers.
Step four: Take your place in line to purchase the carefully chosen supplies. Ask child why he is sobbing. Ask him to use his words. If he cannot use his words due to incoherent sobs, ask him to point. Look in the direction of his trembling pointed finger. Sigh deeply as you lose your place in line to head back to the sticker aisle to acquire shiny race cars stickers.
Step five: Make sure child has napped. Do not proceed to step six until step five has been satisfied. Repeat: the steps shall be performed in the following order: one, two, three, four, five, six. Skipping step five is ill-advised and is to be attempted only by those who feel they owe penance for some wrong they committed in their youth.
Step six: After feeding and watering child post-nap, ask them to dump out the foam letter stickers and help you turn them all right side up. After this is completed, integrate a little educational goodness into the craft by having the child find the letters you ask for to spell each name. Make sure to praise child for both his impressive knowledge of the alphabet as well as his supreme focus to the task. As child hands you letters, spell out each kid’s name on a cookie sheet or other container without removing the sticker backing. Save that for later as a separate step, so that the child can be successful at one task at a time.
Step seven: Open the package of 6’’ foam hearts. Explain to child that he can take the backs off the foam letters that we already organized and hand them to parent one at a time to place on heart. All other stickers will be placed by child so they experience the feeling of ownership of the valentines. Keep your explanation to a minimum or child will become antsy and flip the entire cookie sheet full of names over and into disarray.
Step eight: Pawn child off on your spouse while you sort through all the letters, again, and apply them to the foam hearts by yourself. Justify your actions by reminding yourself that the child did pick them out the first time, so the educational objective was achieved. It was.
Step nine: Open the turtle stickers and place in a bowl. Open the glittery hearts and place in another bowl. Open the sticker that simply say “Happy Valentine’s Day!” so parent does not have to write it twenty times, and place in a bowl. Invite spouse and child back into the crafting zone. Remind spouse he is to restrain child if he looks like he is planning to flip over or dump anything out.
Step ten: Tell child he can pick ANY color turtle from the turtle bowl and put it anywhere on the foam heart. He has creative control! Empower your child with the freedom of choice! Watch proudly as child removes sticker backing from red turtle and places it on the cat. Wait, why is the sticker on the cat? We had exactly enough turtle stickers for each valentine, darn it! Chase terrified cat until it is cornered and remove sticker from from fur. Use your body to block crafting area from grabby toddler as you remove each strand of cat fur from the turtle sticker. Watch in horror as child dumps out each bowl of stickers and gleefully tosses them in the air like confetti.
Step eleven: Remind husband that if he can tear his eyes away from Jeopardy and join in the crafting fun, you could use the help. Husband begins taking backing off stickers in rapid fire succession and handing them to child who places them on a few valentines, before moving on to his hair, the carpet, and the other cat. Husband is unaware this is happening because although his hands are removing sticker backs, his eyes are glued to Alex Trebec. Suppress the urge to strangle husband in front of child.
Step twelve: Grab the sticker from child’s hair, the one from the carpet, and the one off the cat who is now in the litter box. Order husband and child from the room while you attempt to reverse the mayhem that has descended upon your educational-fun-bonding-time craft project.
Step thirteen: Pick cat fur off of sticker, carpet fuzz off of sticker, and child’s hair off of sticker. You need every one because you only bought enough for the exact amount of valentines. Revisit step three and buy extra next time, you lousy cheapskate.
Step fourteen: Gauge child’s ability to continue with the project. Assess that child is not emotionally prepared to continue since tears are gushing out of his eyes and snot is running down his face. Husband confirms child is devastated that I took the sticker off the cat because it made kitty look “so pretty.” Find acceptable non-turtle sticker to give to child in trade so he can make kitty pretty again. After giving child consoling hugs and kisses, request that he not go after the cat that is currently using the litter box.
Step fifteen: Return to valentine work, solo. Inform husband if he does not keep child happily occupied in the other room then he will be the one finishing up these &%@! valentines.
Step sixteen: Take inventory of what remains. Of the 18 valentines, nine need all three stickers. Five need two stickers. Four need one sticker. It is of the utmost importance as you forge your small child’s valentines that you not only place the sticker upside down, but that it must also overlap another sticker despite the fact there is plenty of room for both of them without crowding the other one out. For extra authenticity, place sticker half on and half off the foam heart, so that they exposed part of the sticker collects as much dirt, fur, and hair as possible before making its way to the intended recipient.
Step seventeen: Put each of the foam heart valentines into an envelope. Seal it so that child cannot do further harm to the card, and hand him a crayon to color on each of the envelopes. Pat yourself on the back for your fortitude during this ordeal, and set a reminder in your cell for February 10th, 2016: Buy ready made valentines at Target for E’s Valentine’s Day party next week.
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