Time to link up all your awesome Valentine’s Activities, heart crafts , and other ideas for February!
Let’s see what you have to share.
Creating activities for your child at home or students at school shouldn’t take you all night. Whether you are a teacher or a parent ( or both ) you are busy. Creating fun holiday themed activities can wipe you out. These simple 5 minute reading puzzles can be done with ANY theme. You can find foam cut outs in pretty much any shape ( right now there are 3 different holiday ones available at the dollar store ) and together with stickers you can make a fun activity for free choice, literacy centers, or as a before lunch activity for a day when we didn’t have school. I like using stickers because drawing is not a talent I posses and I want my daughter to focus on the word not sit there trying to decide if Mommy drew a cat or a pig. If you can draw grab a sharpie and go for it!
Gather your materials. You will need some foam shapes, we are using hearts because someone is getting very excited about Valentine’s Day, some stickers of things like animals, household items etc… and more stickers with lowercase letters. If you are going to focus only on the beginning sound ( matching bear to B ) you could use uppercase but now that my daughter has been asking about spelling and sounding words out I have shifted to all lowercase as much as possible. Different teachers ( and districts) will teach letters in different sequences but I have never had a hard time teaching letters in tandem. In my 2 & 3 year old classroom I point out both naturally like when they see their name we take time to mention that their name has one uppercase letter and the rest are lowercase. I use both when playing games and already I have students who easily recognize both as different forms of the same letter.
Cut. I cut each heart differently so that these simple puzzles are self correcting. If the heart doesn’t come together the child knows to keep trying.
I set them up so that the items were out and she had a pile of the words. I did this on purpose. I wanted her to read the word, then find the item. I didn’t want her to see the bear and then scan for a word that started with b. Can you see the difference? How you set it up will depend on what your goals are. My daughter has made the big leap from sounding out CVC words like cat, mop, and fan to much longer words with more syllables and complicated phonetic rules like r controlled vowels. This game lets her do that without the pressure of an adult over her shoulder but with the self correcting feature built in she can get back on track herself if she makes a mistake.
She had no trouble starting with sounding the words out then finding the match. Some of the words were challenging but she’d sound it out initially then look at what other half might make sense. This is NOT cheating this is a perfect example of how children can and should use illustrations in text as a scaffold.
All these strategies in a quick and easy to put together activity.
Asia Citro has no issue with getting messy. The former science teacher turned blogger turned book author has devoted many many hours to finding just the right combinations of ingredients for amazing sensory play. I appreciate this because much like baking I am great at playing with these recipes and even creating activities to do with them once they are done but I am no good at creating the recipes. Recipes like these are precise , not really my strong suit. It is Asia’s. I received this book free for review and you should probably know the author and I are friends. I hope it’s clear to all my readers I wouldn’t promote something unless it was rad even if my friend wrote it.
In her new book 150+ Screen-Free Activities for Kids (affiliate link) she not only shares amazing screen free ideas she shares some exclusive play recipes, not even found on her blog Fun at Home With Kids. I decided to share some of my favorite recipes from her blog and then I let my daughter choose one of the exclusive ones from the book and share some one my favorite tips when you are making play recipes with your kids.
Before we get to the tips let me share my favorite play recipes you can find on Asia’s site Fun At Home With Kids:
What I love about involving your kids in creating the play recipes is that it’s cooking and play all together. A lot of parents express how nervous they are about cooking with their kids or that they don’t have the patience for it. Well try this first. You aren’t a bad parent if you know that cooking dinner with your child will make you nuts. Maybe a play recipe like this will be the perfect compromise!
Browse for some recipes and let your child choose, she chose banana playdough. Letting your child choose the recipe they are going to make isn’t just a fun way to get them excited it’s a great way to model how you browse and read cookbooks. Flip through, read the ingredient lists together, and make shopping lists if need be. In this step along you are modeling real world reading and writing.
She loved mashing the bananas. Mashing bananas, avocados, cooked potatoes… and other mashable foods are always a good choice because kids can do this without you stepping in every two seconds. This builds their confidence.
If a big bowl equals a big mess at your house give you child a little bit of the dough ( or whatever you are cooking) in their own smaller bowl and don’t worry if they spill it.
Time to play with it! Even if you are making real food play can absolutely follow. You can play restaurant with the completed meal, invite Barbie for a tea party, or my daughter’s favorite play” TV Chef” Did I mention she would stop nursing if Giadia was on the TV as an infant? This girl has cooking in her DNA!
If you want the full recipe for the banana playdough ( and so many others) grab a copy of 150+ Screen Free Activities For Kids by Asia Citro I can’t praise this new book enough. I think of it as my cookbook for sensory play. You can buy it on Amazon —> 150+ Screen-Free Activities for Kids: The Very Best and Easiest Playtime Activities from FunAtHomeWithKids.com! ( affiliate link) and check out the author’s blog here.
This easy Valentine’s Day craft was inspired by these hole punch snowflakes we posted years ago. What I love about these hearts aren’t just that they are pretty , they are so simple and are a craft that you can put down and start dinner, run to the bust stop to pick up a sibling, or put away until the next day. Using a hold punch is a wonderful tool for building hand strength but make sure you have the right size punch that your child can maneuver to avoid any frustration.
Gather your materials. You will need some paper ( great way to use up scrap paper! ), hole punches, scissors, and some ribbon. You will also need some painter’s tape to hang them up without leaving too much gunk on your walls or windows.
Thread it through and tie a double knot. This was too tricky for my daughter. The hearts are fragile and rip easily on this step. We decided we were a heart factory and the kids punched most of the holes and Mama tied on the ribbon.
Check out these 14 wonderful books about love and friendship after you make these fantastic hole punch hearts Valentine’s Day craft!
Playing and creating with letters has been a fun way for my children and students over the years to get comfortable with letters, learn their shapes, and spark discussion about letters as we craft. As children color, paint, glue, and handle letters while doing alphabet activities like this one they are learning. You can do this letter with upper or lowercase letters. I chose uppercase for my daughter because she is very comfortable and familiar with recognizing both and my goal for her is to get comfy with the shapes of the letters for writing. The handwriting program she uses at preschool and will be using in kindergarten next year focuses on uppercase first so we are focusing more on uppercase at this stage, though by no means ignoring the lowercase letters. Adding jewels, buttons, stickers… is a novel way of personalizing this activity. My daughter adores these gems which made this activity a shoe in from the start. You don’t have to make a name sign but as we make the letters she wanted to make something and I suggested a name sign for a bedroom. She loved that idea.
Add the double stick tape. I find this is way better on foam than glue. Once it’s down if you give it time to sit it will stay on forever. We did this craft before Christmas ( all those Christmas crafts pushed this one to drafts) and not a single gem has fallen off. This is VERY tricky. She did the straight letters and the curves ones I took care of.
Add the gems. This is where the literacy activity can easily morph into counting, patterns, shape recognition, even estimation. How many gems do you think will fit on this letter? Take cues for your kids to decide how much to push just make sure it doesn’t feel like pushing. I had put them into pretty little containers to make it easier for her to grab them, but there was no point as she just dumped them on the table to get a better view. This took a lot of patience and if your child is struggling let the tape settle and really adhere to the foam first before adding the gems.
Let them sit for a while. We used them to spell all sorts of things before settling on her name.
Arrange them in whatever display you want . I layered a few sheets of card stock with more double stick tape to make the base of the sign. You could do the same or get a cheap canvas and add them to that.
Find the perfect place for it and hang it up. Like I said we made this before Christmas and since we hung it up she traces it every night before we turn the light off. It’s a sweet reminder of how proud she is of making it as well as just a good literacy activity.