Giving Valentine’s Day Back To The Kids!

Valentine’s Day has never been my favourite day of the year. As a Kindergarten teacher, I always dreaded the multiple piles of valentines that needed to be sorted before the end of the school day. Even if children just sign their own name to the cards, trying to distribute them into 30+ bags, never fails to be a challenge. Then there is the creation of the bags themselves. Why does everybody have to decorate a bag? What is the value in doing so? What if a child doesn’t want to decorate one? Yes, I’m the Valentine’s Day Grinch, and my heart hasn’t managed to grow quite yet. 🙂 But this year, I had a different perspective on this holiday.

I think that it’s because this year, we did things differently. On February 13th, I read the students a story about Valentine’s Day. I asked, “Who is planning on bringing in valentines tomorrow?” Most children raised their hands. That’s when I asked, “Where will people put all of their valentines?” This is when students mentioned the bags and boxes that the characters had in the story. I then took some volunteers that wanted to make bags, and we got some construction paper from the cupboard in order to do so. Yes, I did manage to grab green, but I promise that this was accidental. 🙂 I love that children weren’t forced to create these bags, and even though many children used the green bags, a few children made their own special bags (of various colours and designs), and that was also fine. Plus the reading, writing, and problem solving that were part of the bag making process, made me feel as though even in this activity, learning was happening. 

Then there was Valentine’s Day itself. For the first time in 15 years, I did not …

  • organize the bags.
  • have children sit in a circle to distribute valentines.
  • help children hand out the cards.

I realized that one of my biggest struggles with the holiday is that the teaching and learning environment that I try to create for the rest of the year, I abandon on this one day. 

  • I micro-manage.
  • I have children sit for too long.
  • I have every child doing the same thing at the same time.
  • I wait until too late, and then feel stressed to finish before the bell.

This year, I wondered, “Why?” I’m so grateful to have a teaching partner that had this same question, and even though she was away sick on Valentine’s Day, she supported me in this thinking from afar. Thank you, Paula!

This year, I let the children take control of Valentine’s Day. We used our “meeting time carpet,” and a group of interested students …

  • decided how to organize the bags.
  • helped their classmates read the names on their cards. 
  • helped their classmates hand out their cards.
  • helped find children that did not hand out their valentines yet, and ensured that they did.

This was not a pretty process, but it was remarkably calm. A few children sat in the middle of the carpet and read the valentines as they went in their bags. One child monitored that everybody received a valentine. Many children went back and forth between the carpet and their play to check out how many more valentines were in their bags. Some children preferred quiet options to the busy carpet, and they found these quiet spaces.

As Paula’s supply moved towards the carpet to check on the valentines, I quietly sang, “Let It Go!” She giggled, but she understood. So often we talk about “the process” as mattering more than “the product.” Why shouldn’t this hold true for Valentine’s Day? I know that there were mistakes.

  • A few children missed bags.
  • Some children put the wrong valentine in the wrong bag.
  • Some children got multiple valentines from the same child.
  • A few children brought home extra valentines, even though I’m not so sure that they brought in extras.

But as we went to put our card bags in our backpacks, I mentioned these possible mistakes. Then I asked …

  • Do we all have cards? Yes.
  • Do we all have treats? Yes.
  • Are we all loved? Yes.

With just these three questions, every child was happy and I was happy too. 🙂 How do you give your students control over the holidays? What’s the value in doing so? For 14 years, I did the “Valentine’s Day circle,” and I’m thrilled not to be going back. This thought alone may be enough for my Grinch heart to grow after all.



10 thoughts on “Giving Valentine’s Day Back To The Kids!

  1. I LOVE this post! I am not a lover of this day in kindergarten either for all of the reasons you mentioned. I am not, however, as evolved as you as we opted for fruit donations for a Friendship Fruit Salad instead of valentines. In the end, the day passed, I felt guilty, at least two parents were unhappy – one placed a phone call, others were completely supportive (and relieved?) and the children, well they just had another day with a little fruit salad thrown in. I love your approach to the day and you have given me much food for thought. Thank you.

    • Thanks for your comment and for sharing what you did, Chris! I love the idea of a Friendship Fruit Salad. We may have to try this another year. This year, our Kindergarten team asked for no treats for Valentine’s Day. We thought about “no cards,” but knew that some parents already purchased them and some children really wanted to hand them out, so we left the cards as optional. We just asked parents to make the learning meaningful for their child: knowing that all children are different. Some children are still perfecting the printing of their name, so this was a chance to practise, and some children are working on reading and writing the names of their friends, so they could practise this. Names were not required on the cards: it was up to the parent and the child. We also had paper out for those children that wanted to make cards at school. And for those that didn’t, nothing was forced. I do think that the lack of sugary food helped a lot with the smoothness of the day. We handed out one blueberry thumbprint cookie at the end of the day, and everyone seemed happy. You mentioned that two parents were upset, but how did the kids feel? I love that even without the big party, our students went home excited about their valentines and the few treats included with the cards. I’d love to know if you change your plan for next year and how it goes.


  2. I’ve never done the Valentine circle but I’ve heard of it. 😉 we did a Pinterest inspired bag that the children were excited about and they helped us punch and did their own cutting to assemble them. We make them about 10 days ahead. Then we put them out in alpha order by first name including all staff who support our room (prep teachers librarian etc) the children use them as mail bags for the week to 10 days ahead. Some children didn’t bring in valentines from home as they made them at school for the week ahead. Some brought theirs over the week ahead and friends helped them to hand out. Some wanted to write their friends name and sorted. Some only signed own name and just had to put one on each bag. Some made paper hearts and stuffed like mad. Some brought nothing and made nothing. But it wasn’t obvious who did what and they were so excited to take them home. We staple the bags shut and ask parents to help them read the cards and monitor treats. (We have some allergies in our room). Seemed to work ok. I like the idea of involving children more in what they make to hold cards. Thanks as always for sharing your thinking!! Love to ponder and reflect with you.

    • Thanks for sharing what you did here, Heather! Using the bags as mail bags is a neat idea. It may help with the craziness of the day to have cards distributed throughout the week. What did you think of your level of involvement in the activity? Too much? Not enough? Just right? I love options where children can do more and take more ownership. Did students look to you for support with the card distribution, or did they gravitate to their friends? If you do change your bag options for next year, I’d love to know what you decide. We also have an allergy in the class, and having options that keep this child safe (when it comes to food) is so important. It sounds like your staple system helped with this.


      • It’s funny. As educators we had the whole talk about craft vs child inspired before we started. The children seemed to love the idea of the craft in this bag. Other years I’ve let it be much more child directed decorating. This year the children seemed to enjoy creating the owl bags. They were colorful, simple and each one was a little unique. It was easy for children to read names counter height and always on owl tummy. We were at the table part of the time that day because we created our own bags too. They were so simple that we didn’t need to be overly involved. The children that really enjoyed the activity made bags for all the staff we decided to include. Yesterday some students asked for my punches and started creating their own owls and other things. The craft inspired their own creating. Always thinking and wondering. Reflecting as I wonder what we will do next year?!

        • Distribution. Many wanted to distribute on their own or with a friend. Because they had been writing notes and making things for friends already they didn’t need us as much. Some knew what their friends owl looked like already. Many things in the room are organized alpha by first name and at this point in year some start to know whose name is near whose. This would be even better with your child created and inspired creations. Especially if they were made ahead of time. Children would get to know whose special individual creation is whose without needing names so much.

          • I’m glad to hear that the distribution went so well. It’s wonderful when the children can support each other. I can see how the uniqueness of each bag may help with the distribution. This is such a terrific, and meaningful, time to review letters, sounds, and words (i.e., names). I think that I would want the children to pay attention to the names themselves. Hmmm … Maybe this is where our questioning helps. Thanks for giving me more to think about!


        • Thanks for sharing, Heather! I would be curious to know why the students preferred a craft vs. art. Glad to know that each one was still a little unique though. It’s also wonderful to know that the craft inspired some future creativity. I wonder where this might go next. Reflection is always such a terrific thing. Please do share if you end up making some changes for next year. I would love to know how things go.


  3. I love this!! You’ve found a perfect balance, a way to meet learner needs and interests. What a great idea, thank you for sharing.
    I struggle with Valentine’s Day in middle school because of the peer pressure and popularity issues. Feelings get hurt, but some still want to give and hope to receive.
    This year we focused on gratitude. We shared expressions of gratitude to the people who make us feel the love: coaches, friends, parents, etc. We saw some beautiful words, and heartfelt thoughts.
    Thank you for your ideas and keeping the window to your class wide open. ❤

    • Thanks for your comment, Heidi! I was definitely happy with the balance that we found this year, and I think that I could come to like Valentine’s Day better with this kind of system.

      I love your idea of focusing on “gratitude.” Our Board has been focusing on kindness all week, and even in Kindergarten, we’ve been discussing what it means to be kind and working hard to make kind choices. It’s great to hear that your gratitude focus met with some positive actions. I hope that it also changes things for the better as students continue to interact with each other. I remember teaching Grades 5 and 6, and Valentine’s Day can definitely be more challenging (for the reasons you shared). Your idea seems to be a great way to make things better!


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