My toddler is excitedly preparing to celebrate his first Valentine’s Day at preschool this week. Meanwhile, I’m starting a new job and nearly forgot to buy Valentines! So you can imagine my face when I read the school email boldly asking parents to bring homemade Valentine’s, along with a lengthy list of anxiety inducing guidelines (non GMO, USDA organic, allergy friendly, and gluten free). While I would love to whip out my glue gun and get to work on some popsicle stick masterpieces or vegan heart shaped brownies, I just don’t have the time. Let’s be honest, I’m not that kind of mom anyway. In fact, I come from a long line of Don’t Do It Yourselfers.
Why store-bought Valentine’s failed me.
My earliest Valentine’s Day memory is of my mom and I rushing to Walmart 20 minutes before closing, to pick out Looney Tunes cards for my classmates. We arrived to a picked over selection of d-list cartoon characters. I was so disappointed. My frown turned to tears when we reached the candy section. The only thing left was a sad bag of outlet grade candy hearts, mis-stamped by a machine running as behind as we were. I hated that my class contribution was reduced to Daffy Duck, Scotch tape, and a smeared Pepto Bismol chewable reading “4 eva”. Nevertheless, this memory is stamped in my childhood and an encouraging reminder of how blessed we are that technology has improved!
DIY in the 21st century
Homemade and technology don’t usually mix, but we’re going to change that today. I’m not sure about you, but whenever I’m told to attempt anything DIY, my first thought is, “But I’m not crafty!” Which is usually followed by, “Oh, but it’s so easy! You just take the blah blah blah…” and they’ve already lost me. Any sentence that starts with it’s so easy is a red flag for busy moms, no? So I’m going to tell you the truth, this is actually not a craft at all. Think of it as a mini photoshoot.
What You’ll Need
- Walgreens 24hr Photo
- Hole Punch (Dollar Tree!)
- YumEarth Lollipops (or brand of choice suckers)
First Step: Find your canvas & prime your subject.
Find a white or lightly colored wall in your home to use as a background. This will make your subject pop. On the contrary, very dark colored walls also work well because they provide a similar contrast. Make sure your wall is free of clutter, busy patterns, and any decor that could be distracting. Think, blank canvas!
Next, position your child with their back to the wall, facing you. Ask them to hold their arms straight out in front of them or up to one side, with their hands together and fists closed. Now, wrap the fingers of one fist around the other. Slightly cross their thumbs on top. If they’re having trouble with this direction, ask them to pretend they are giving you a bouquet of flowers.
Second Step: Bring out your inner Cindy Sherman.
Begin snapping some adorable photos! Here are my tips for bringing out your child’s most natural smile:
- Try belly laughing. Give your heartiest belly laugh and have them join in the second time around. Keep it going until some real giggles start. It’s impossible to keep a straight face with so much silliness going on. It doesn’t matter how it starts; laughter makes us feel good which will ultimately shines through in your photos.
- Use reverse psychology. Tell them not to smile. Go way over the top with it as in, “Don’t you do it! Don’t you dare smile!” Keep going until they flash you their pearly whites.
- Get down on their level. Taking photos of kids at eye-level is much more compelling. Moreover, it makes them feel comfortable, so your photos will feel more personal as a result.
- Take a bunch! Yes, you may have to take 30 photos to get the right one, but in today’s world you don’t have to print them all.
Third Step: Add some text and doodle away!
Download a free text editing app for photos. I used PicSee on iPhone but also love PicMonkey for Android. Your phone may already come equipped with some apps, so feel free to explore those free options as well!
To begin, open the PicSee app. Click the Edit button to select your favorite photo. Make sure to allow access to your photo library. Next, click the pink circle with the plus sign under it to add text and stickers. Don’t place them too close to the edges, or you’ll risk printing errors. Lastly, click the down pointing arrow (bottom center) to return to the previous menu where you can save your work to your photo library.
Fourth Step: Order prints & buy lollies.
Order your 4×6 prints ahead of time at Walgreens.com or simply bring your smartphone to the store for 24hr photo assistance. In the meantime, buy your lollipops of choice.
I was thrilled to find YumEarth Organic Lollipops at Target. They meet all of the aforementioned criteria for allergy classrooms and schools. Plus, you can relax knowing that all students will be able to enjoy your personalized Valentine’s!
Fifth Step: Punch Holes and Deliver!
Lastly, punch one hole above and one below your child’s outstretched fists on each photo card. Thread the lollipops through and you’re done. Most importantly, remember to include your little ones! They will be happy to hole punch and feed the suckers through. In addition, it gives them a great sense of ownership!
Remember to ask your kids for feedback! You will be excited to hear how fun it was to pass their Valentine’s out in class and to chat about their friends’ reactions! #MomWin
Even more Valentine’s Day ideas
For those of you that love to explore and research, here are some additional simple Valentine’s Day ideas for preschool and elementary aged children:
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