Toddler Valentine’s Day Treats

Valentines Cupcakes (5)

Valentine’s Day is full of sweet treats, and here are a few food ideas that even a toddler can help out with… or just enjoy!

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Edible Valentines: This first idea comes from the classic Toddler’s Busy Book. I tinted a little store-bought frosting pink with food coloring and showed Veronika how to smear this onto graham crackers (Nabisco’s original are vegan).

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Since candy hearts are not vegan, we topped the graham crackers with the seasonal gummy hearts from Annie’s bunny packs! This made for an adorable craft project and snack rolled into one.

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Valentine Cupcakes: What would Valentine’s Day be without a little chocolate? For this toddler-friendly baking project, I simply whipped up cupcakes from a dairy-free chocolate mix. The Valentine twist, though, is to make them heart-shaped. After spooning the batter into cupcake liners, place a marble at one edge of each liner which will indent it like a heart!

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And of course Veronika loved playing with leftover marbles and liners.

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The effect wasn’t quite as pronounced after baking, since the cupcakes rose so high in the liners, but we could still sort of see them as hearts. Veronika loved helping spread on chocolate frosting. In general, frosting cupcakes like this is a perfect toddler skill in the kitchen.

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We added a few final decorations (like more of those Annie’s hearts). Sprinkles would look pretty, too!

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Sweetheart Sandwiches: Next up, I made little sandwiches which are perfect for a snack or lunch on Valentine’s Day. For the first version, I stirred a little cinnamon into plain non-dairy cream cheese.

Sweetheart Sandwiches

For an alternate version, turn it pink! Use strawberry flavored non-dairy cream cheese (such as Kite Hill), or just tint plain cream cheese pink with food coloring, then stir in a little agave nectar. Finally, use a heart shaped cookie cutter to make a heart.

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And for a final edible treat, I spelled out L-O-V-E for the kids’ Valentine breakfast, thanks to this sweet idea from Parents magazine.

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On a large plate, form an L from tater tots, an O from a kiwi slice, a V from a toasted waffle cut with a heart-shaped cookie cutter, and an E from raspberries. The kids’ reaction to all these goodies? They loved ’em!

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Valentine’s Day Vase

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This cute Valentine’s Day gift idea from Hands on As We Grow is a great way to recycle leftover plastic bottles! We used non-dairy smoothie bottles, which were the perfect size and shape.

Clean and dry the bottles thoroughly, then set out a tray filled with Epsom salt. We added red food coloring (naturally!) for Valentine’s Day.

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Next, I showed Veronika how to smear white glue all over the bottle with a paint brush.

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Once the bottle is completely covered, simply roll in the salt. It will cling on, and it sparkles so beautifully! Veronika thought it was so pretty that we added blue food coloring and made a second bluish-purple version. Let dry completely.

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Meanwhile, Veronika was still busy playing with the Epsom salt mixture, stirring it around with a paint brush or dipping her brush into the cup of glue and back again. Just be sure to supervise play closely, as Epsom salt is not edible.

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When the vases are dry, fill with roses and set out for someone special!

Valentine Window of Hearts

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Veronika has made lots of Valentine cards to give away this year, but we realized our house was lacking in decorations that we had kept for ourselves! I had leftover doilies from one of her projects, and these only needed a little toddler-friendly embellishment before we could hang them in the windows.

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First, Veronika used dot markers to decorate some of the doilies. We chose red and purple, to keep with a Valentine’s color scheme.

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I thought she might also enjoy painting some of the doilies, but she hasn’t wanted to get her hands messy lately. Instead, I placed a few of the doilies in a plastic container and added two balls, one big and one small. Squeeze in a few drops of red paint, then roll the balls around. Your toddler might want to do this with his or her hands and get nice and messy!

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Veronika preferred it when I showed her how she could til the container to and fro, making the balls scatter paint across the doilies.

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Let these painted ones dry before adding to the other doilies hanging in your window. This made the easiest toddler “garland” ever!

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Sponge Towers and Stamps

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Large kitchen sponges are easy to buy cheaply and in bulk, so consider stocking up the next time you’re at the store. I love keeping a few in the craft bin because they always come in handy, and not just for watery outdoor summer play.

Veronika and I found two fun ways to play with them this winter afternoon! First, I cut several of the sponges into strips so they made almost a soft foam version of Jenga blocks! I showed her to stack these into layers, and she loved helping add to each strata as our tower grew taller.

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And of course she loved knocking the sponges over.

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She also came up with her own way to stack them, simply one strip atop another, and I loved watching her concentration!

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Note: If building up the Jenga-style towers is too tough for your toddler, you can also make simple shape blocks. Aside from the obvious opportunity to talk about shapes or short by shape, toddlers will no doubt find many uses for these soft (danger-free!) blocks.

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They were great fun for hauling around in her dump truck…

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…or teaching an early intro to simple patterns, like alternating pink and blue.

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When the stacking was done, we still had a few sponges left over so I wanted to use them for more of an artsy craft. Sponges make perfect “stamps” for painting and since we’re so near to Valentine’s Day, I cut them into heart shapes.

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These made great prints, and Veronika was especially intrigued with the fact that the color that appeared on the paper wasn’t the yellow or blue of the sponge…

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…but red paint! So this accidentally turned into a quick lesson on cause and effect.

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Want more ways to play with DIY sponge blocks? Check out what big brother Travis was doing with them 4 years ago!

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Kids’ Hearts Valentine Gift

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The kids gave daddy their hearts for Valentine’s Day – literally! This is a great craft for siblings to work on together, and results in a beautiful keepsake for any family member.

First, I wanted the kids to each paint “their” heart, so I cut two heart shapes from sturdy white paper (older kids can do their own cutting), and set out different colors of paint. But neither kid wanted to get messy! So I slipped the hearts into plastic zip-top bags and squirted in their requested colors of paint: peach and green.

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The kids loved smearing the paint on through the bag. Veronika loved that she made circles of paint as she pressed, and Travis loved that he could cover the heart completely without getting a drop of paint on his fingers, my neat boy.

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I set the hearts aside to dry.

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Meanwhile, I removed the mat from inside a frame and traced it onto red construction paper instead. Once the hearts dried, I wrote each child’s name on the one they had painted, then glued to the red mat.

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Write a sweet message along the top or bottom, replace inside the frame, and then wait for the big smile on your recipient’s face!

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Valentine Hearts, Two Ways

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The heart crafts with Veronika continue, a great way to teach toddlers about the connection between Valentine’s Day and love… and messy crafts! Today we used hearts in our painting, but in two very different ways.

For the first, I cut heart shapes from pink construction paper and placed these on a tray. Dribble on a little red and white paint, then fold the heart in half.

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I encouraged Veronika to flatten out the heart! She could either use her hands or roll over it with a small rolling pin. Because we’d used too much paint, this turned out to be a very smooshy messy process!

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Open the heart up for the big reveal!

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Let dry, then write a Valentine message on the back for someone special.

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The second method is one I did with Travis when he was not much older than Veronika is now (!), making it one of the earliest posts from this blog. It’s fun to repeat activities with my kids and see how they differ across the years. All you need is an empty toilet paper tube; push in one edge slightly to form a heart shape.

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I showed Veronika how to dip this “stamp” in red paint and print!

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Make as many heart prints as your child desires. I remember Travis wanted to cover his whole paper, but Veronika tired out about half way through.

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If you try both of these heart crafts, please share in the comments which one your toddler liked best!

Valentine Cookie Play

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Sugar cookie recipes are a perfect way to involve a toddler in the kitchen. There’s rolling, frosting, and decorating, not to mention tasting! Because sugar cookies involve multiple steps, a recipe can easily fill a snowed-in morning together, as Veronika and I made it do today!

For the cookies, we used this recipe except (whoops!) accidentally added 1 cup Earth Balance butter instead of 3/4 cup. Luckily, the dough still worked great. If your toddler wants to help with some of the easier steps of making the dough, be sure to let him or her! Veronika wasn’t interested though until I pulled the chilled dough from the fridge and set it down, along with a rolling pin and cookie cutters.

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She loved helping roll out the dough with the purple rolling pin!

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I helped her press our heart cookie cutters in hard enough to push all the way through the dough, and showed her how to arrange our hearts on cookie sheets. She was so proud and delighted with all these steps! When there were only a few dough scraps left, I let her continue the play solo while I baked the cookie batches.

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Once the cookies cooled, it was time to decorate! We nixed homemade icing and instead just tinted a can of store-bought vanilla frosting pink with a little food coloring. Veronika was so proud standing at the counter, just like big brother Travis can! She helped frost the cookies…

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…and loved using a spoon to add little white sprinkles.

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Of course all of this was combined with lots of nibbling and taste-testing, making for a happy sugar-fueled morning.

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Mustache Pops

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This Valentine’s card idea from Highlights magazine was so adorable we just had to make it, not only for Travis’s classmates but a few extra for ourselves, too!

To start, find any mustache template online and print out. Mustaches range from very simple to the very curved and curly, and I would caution against the latter unless you really enjoy fine scissor work. We found a mustache with a nice country western vibe and I traced it onto sparkly sticky-back foam (available at craft stores), one for each member of Travis’s class.

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Cut out and then adhere the sticky side to a regular sheet of craft foam (we used red). I needed 2 large sheets to fit 18 mustaches total, 9 per sheet. Cut out around the mustache shape again, this time leaving some of the red visible as trim. Set aside.

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Meanwhile, cut rectangles from pink or red cardstock. I printed out the message “I mustache you to be my Valentine” on regular paper and then glued to the top of each piece of cardstock. If you have a printer that can handle thick cardstock, print directly onto it instead!

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Next, I poked a hole in the center of each mustache with a pin, and then inserted a lollipop stick. Fold the cardstock in half horizontally just slightly and make two snips with scissors near the bottom; this creates slits that the lollipop stick can slot through. Finally, have your child write in each recipient’s name and the mustache pops are ready to go!

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These were adorable on paper, but of course the best part was taking them off the cardstock to sport a lollipop ‘stache. Travis loved looking quizzical and grown-up in his.

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Little sister Veronika was skeptical at first…

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But one lick of watermelon lollilop made her a mustache convert!

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Stuffed Heart Pillow

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We’ve been making lots of Valentine’s Day cards and crafts to send, but Veronika wanted something to be hers around the house! This “stuffie” heart was the perfect Valentine’s friend to keep.

First, I knew we’d need to cover a large area with paint so I laid down our roll of craft paper. I decided the easiest way for her to paint this would be simply to dollop paint all over the paper and let her smear it with a wide-bristle paintbrush.

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We used three shades of red, pink, and purple, one of which was glittery, so it all combined into a nice mix.Stuffed Heart (3)

Once we had covered the paper, I set it upstairs to dry where little feet wouldn’t accidentally walk across it!

Later in the day, it was time to make the heart into a “stuffed animal”. I drew a heart shape on the paper and cut out, then traced it so we had two hearts. Use hot glue to attach these at the edges (so much easier than sewing!).

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We used cotton roving for stuffing, but if you don’t have any roving, wadded up newspaper would probably work just fine.

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I drew on a smiley face as the final touch.

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It turns out Veronika wasn’t the only one smitten with this new stuffed friend. It brought an instant smile to big brother Travis’s face.

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And needed a big hug, too!

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Kids are sure to love this Valentine’s Day friend.

 

Wonder Wheel Valentines

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These sweet Valentine’s (thanks Parents magazine!) are sure to give every one of your kid’s classmates an ego boost. No matter where the spinning arrow points, a compliment is waiting!

To start, trace a 3-inch round cookie cutter onto cardstock, making enough circles for each recipient. Next, trace additional circles on two different colors of cardstock (we used shades in the red and pink family). Divide each of these circles into 6 segments and cut out. You’ll need double the number of segments as you have classmates (so for Travis’s class of 15 kids, I needed 30 red segments and 30 pink segments).

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Using a glue stick, attach these segments onto your base circles, alternating colors. Such a pretty tricolor effect!

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Next, write in sweet and empowering messages on each wedge of the wheel. Older kids can take charge of this step, but I knew it would be overwhelming for Travis to do so much handwriting. Instead, I wrote 5 of the wedges for each card (with statements like “You’re Gr8!” or “Superstar!”) and left the final wedge blank for him to write in the classmate recipient’s name.

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For the arrow spinner, I traced an arrow on a fourth color of cardstock, then traced and cut out 15 of them. Poke a brad fastener through the arrow and then through the center of the wheel, folding down to secure in place.

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Give that wonder wheel a spin!

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