Kid-Rated Fun for Valentine’s Day

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Some kids might roll their eyes at the romantic underpinnings of Valentine’s Day, but there are plenty of ways to have fun on Feb. 14 without focusing on the yucky love stuff.

For inexpensive parties at home, kids can do their own decorating with those leftover cards that didn’t make it into Valentine exchange boxes at school, perhaps because of the romantic wording. Cut out the pictures, and create a fun party montage glued or taped to poster boards.

Heart-shaped candy conversation hearts that have grownup sayings like “love me” and “kiss me” can be repurposed, too. Those boxes of tiny hearts can provide the playing pieces for an inexpensive Valentine’s Day party stacking game. Kids of any age can compete individually or by team to create a stack from balancing one on top of the other. When your stack topples, you’re out of the game.

The team or child with the last stack standing wins all the hearts to keep or use to challenge partygoers to another round. To keep this game fun for very young children, keep an extra box of candy hearts on hand. Then, declare everyone the winner of one heart when a stack of just two or three doesn’t tumble to the table.

Anastasia McKenna, a former schoolteacher who has spent 16 years as a children’s storyteller, known as Miss Anastasia at the Twig Book Shop in San Antonio, suggests easy craft-making sessions with red paper hearts of different sizes. These homemade valentines can be handed out or delivered elsewhere after the party.
“Two hearts or four hearts can become a butterfly. Or, little hearts can be stacked into legs for an animal,” says McKenna, who oversees craft-making sessions for young children as part of her free monthly storytelling sessions at the bookstore.

What she discovered as her own children became older is that they sometimes preferred to keep their creations. “For some kids, that’s their art, and it can be hard to part with.” With today’s picture-taking smart phones and the Internet, young artists can keep the originals after taking digital photographs and emailing their valentines, McKenna says.

Valentine’s on the go

For a Valentine’s Day weekend celebration on the go, several free or inexpensive kid-friendly events without the love stuff are scheduled in San Antonio Saturday, Feb. 13, and Sunday, Feb. 14. For example, admission to the San Antonio Museum of Art is free from 10 a.m. until noon every Sunday, which in February includes Valentine’s Day.

The San Antonio Public Library System is hosting free Come & Go craft-making sessions for young kids and caretakers at the main library and two branches on Feb. 13 and 14. San Antonio Symphony members will visit two library branches Feb. 13 for a free show-and-play hour of music. For times and locations, visit mysapl.org/calendar.

It’s free Story Time with Miss Anastasia and Lady Bug Girl, plus a tea party and crafts session at The Twig Book Shop in San Antonio Feb. 13 for children accompanied by caretakers. A preschool storytelling session with a Valentine theme is Feb. 12. For more information, visit thetwig.com.

Instead of Valentine’s Day, let the kids celebrate Chinese New Year at the family-friendly Asian Festival at the UTSA Institute of Texan Culture in downtown San Antonio on Feb. 13. Ticket prices range from $5 to $10, and kids under 5 are free. For more information, visit texancultures.com/festivals_events/Asian-Festival_2016.

Parties from the heart

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Another way to celebrate Valentine’s Day is with a party from the heart for a good cause. Kids can help other children or animals in need with simple crafts or inexpensive items for donations. A designated grownup can deliver gifts decorated with simple paper hearts signed by the kids and taped to the items. Party decorations can be poster boards decorated with paper hearts and cutout pictures of children at play or puppies and kittens.
Kids who love animals can host a party that invites each child to bring a small item they find on the wish list posted at the website of the San Antonio Humane Society at sahumane.org. For example, kids can bring a single can of pet food or an old tennis ball that will become a play toy for stray dogs and cats awaiting adoption at the Humane Society’s shelter. “Being a compassionate person, no matter what age, is so important,” says Humane Society spokeswoman Felicia Nino.

At Haven for Hope, a downtown San Antonio center that provides shelter and services for homeless families, including as many as 150 children at a time, “the kids would love to receive Valentines,” says spokeswoman Laura Calderon.

Each child at a party from the heart for these kids can bring a wrapped granola bar, package of cookies or peanut butters and crackers snack. “We have a cafeteria here, but at 7 at night, when kids can get hungry, the kitchen is closed,” says Calderon. Young partygoers can sign their name on a paper heart to tape to each wrapped snack. A designated grownup can then make a delivery marked “for the children” to the center.
Parties from the heart can encourage kids to think about helping others throughout the year. “Each day, holiday or not, you should wake up and think, ‘What can I do to make someone smile and have a sparkling day,’” says children’s storyteller McKenna.

Renee Haines is a San Antonio freelance writer.

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