At last count, and with a little guidance and teamwork, my three boys made at least 68 Valentines in the last week.  The various school Valentine parties happened on different days, some last Thursday and some today, so we were able to stagger the Valentine making a bit.

This year we took the old-fashioned approach, and cut lots and lots of paper hearts, which we then pasted onto paper cards.

glue, paper, scissors

Here’s a sample of the preschool version…

"these hearts look like foxes!"

before the addition of pairs of animal stickers.

This is the Kindergarten set:

colorful hearts

and last but not least, the second grade set:

kisses attached last

As most parents know, the hardest part of this whole process is likely the name writing.  For a four-year-old, writing one’s own name 12 times takes patience and stamina.  It is not much easier when you are 6, and have to write your name 28 times.  We took lots of breaks in-between steps for that very reason– rest the arm, rest the hand, eat a candy kiss–and on to more cutting and pasting, and yes, write your name one more time.  The Kindergartener barreled through, and with some help cutting out hearts from his big brother, he finished his group of 29 cards in just an hour.  They turned out to be some of my favorites, with bright colors, large animal stickers, and a touch of colored pencil embellishment.

red on black

Besides the hands-on aspect of this holiday project, what I liked about sitting alongside each boy as they worked on their cards was that I learned something about each of them.  I learned who their special friends are, the kids who merit the very “best” artworks, favorite colors, patterns, or stickers.

My second grader, in particular, showed his own heart to me in a new way as he chose particular Valentines for particular classmates.  As he went down the class list, he would come across a name, then scan the cards on the table to find one that seemed just right for that person.  In a couple of cases he made cards with people in mind from the very beginning.  Some of the comments he made went something like this:

“Oh, Isabelle.  Isabelle does everything fast–she talks fast, she runs fast.  This one is for Isabelle.”

“Dylan.  Dylan likes blue, that’s why I cut out a blue heart for him.”

“Ella would like a heart with flowers on it (he says this as he picks out a heart with a floral pattern on the right-hand side of it).  She wears flowers in her hair sometimes, and she always wears them on that side.”

“Hannah.”  He picks up a card with a single heart pasted on it.  “I think this one is a little boring, I need to make it more interesting for Hannah.”  Then he adds a second heart cut out around the first, and is satisfied.

But the one that really got me was when he looked for a card for Nate.

“Nate.  Nate needs a really good one, because sometimes he gets picked on.  I need to make him one of the best ones because he deserves it.”

And so on, until every person had a card with their name on it, and a chocolate kiss attached with glue.

Just when I was beginning to think the whole card exchanging thing might be kind of empty–how many Spiderman lollipop cards does one kid need!?– I saw that with the good attention and intention it doesn’t have to be.  The combination heart + card can carry some real heart with it, especially when made by hand.

Happy Valentine’s Day!!