Five Fun Valentine Alternatives for the Candy Exchange

Valentine’s Day is next Thursday, but we are running this piece today so that you can work on it over the weekend with your children/child.

There’s so much in the news about childhood obesity that I thought it might be a good idea to provide some non-candy alternatives for the upcoming holiday.

In addition, I’m a little tired of all the candy coming into our home. It seems like we lurch from one candy holiday to the next, with Valentine’s Day, Easter, Halloween and Christmas. I’d bet that someday there will be Peeps trees for Arbor Day!

Now, lest you think I’m sitting over here gnawing on my sprouts while grousing about the overabundance of candy in the mouths of little kids. Worry not. I love candy. Don’t put your junior mints or Whoppers or Hot Tamales next to me if you want to see them again.

Point is, I’m not a candy Scrooge. Its just that sometimes its too much.

So, I fished around online for some non-candy ideas for Valentine’s Day. If your primary school or preschool is hosting a party with a Valentine exchange, here are some non-candy ideas to hand out in lieu of candy.

1. ‘You are Just Write For Me’ personalized note pads. Either print out pages with each child’s name, have your child hand-stamp each page with a Valentine-themed stamp and then staple together or use padding compound or glue to make them stick together—OR—purchase packets of mini-memo notepads at the dollar store or party store and affix a new cover with each child’s name in a heart in the center. 

Supplies needed: Paper, computer (or calligraphy or other pen), stapler (or glue or padding compound). Or, Mini-memo notepads (usually .25¢ each at the dollar store), construction paper, pen.

2. ‘If Friends were Flowers, I’d Pick you.‘ Use card-stock to cut out flowerpots and/or flowers, get a few seed packets for spring flowers and divvy up the seeds. Even little ones can cut out flowers if you draw the shape on a piece of paper. Put the seeds on double stick tape adhered to the card-stock. Include instructions to bury the whole thing–card and all–so that flowers will grow in their garden.

Supplies needed: Seeds, double stick tape, cardstock or construction paper, pen or computer to write instructions. Use your imagination. You could also cut out pictures from a magazine, or cut up brown paper grocery bags and color the flowers with markers.

3. ‘Dough You Want to Be My Valentine?’ Buy mini-packs of Play Doh or use a recipe for homemade play-dough. There are a lot of recipes online. Here’s mine:

  • 1 cup of water
  • 3 teaspoons of Cream of Tartar
  • 1 cup of flour
  • 1 package of Strawberry Kool-Aid Mix (or any flavor of unsweetened Kool-Aid)
  • 1 tablespoon of cooking oil
  • 1/2 cup of sugar
  • Red Glitter

Directions: Mix the dry ingredients in a pan. Set it over medium heat and stir in the water and oil until it looks like playdough. Add sparkle or glitter. Divide it up into plastic snack bags with a printed label or cardstock tag. You could also cut it out in the shape of a heart with a cookie cutter.

Supplies needed: Play-doh or play-dough, plastic snack bags or the tiny ziploc containers (like the ones for single serve dressing) with lids, labels or tags with each child’s name.

4. ‘You Color My World‘ Buy a big box of crayons, divvy them up, a few to each child. Print out a coloring page or buy a coloring book and tear out the pages. Roll up the coloring page(s), tie a red or pink ribbon with the crayons attached.

Supplies needed: crayons, mini-snack bags, red, pink or white ribbon, computer to find coloring pages or a coloring book from the dollar store.

5. ‘I’m Sweet on You.’Hot cocoa cones. This is tip-toeing into unhealthy food, but in February, its cold and nearly everyone likes a warm beverage after playing in the snow. Homemade hot cocoa mix is very easy to make.

  • 3 cups nonfat dry milk powder
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 cups white chocolate chips
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Miniature marshmallows, mini chocolate or cinnamon chips
  • Red gumdrop

Directions: This makes about 20 servings. Mix all of the dry ingredients (the first five) in a bowl. Scoop mix into a sandwich baggie, pushing it down into the corner. Add chocolate chips and mini marshmallows. Put a gumdrop on the top. Use a twist tie or rubber band to secure the top (hair ties work great). Add a tag that tells them just to add hot water in a cup for a warm winter treat!

Supplies needed: Hot cocoa mix and marshmallows (can also just buy Swiss Miss), sandwich baggies, twist ties or rubber bands, tags or labels with directions.

These are just some ideas to get you started. There are thousands of clever non-candy ideas out there. A web search will pull up ideas, directions, step-by-steps and photos.


Editor’s Note: Along with writing and editing the South River Source, I’m also a host on a TV program on AACPS-TV (Comcast/Broadstripe channel 96; Verizon channel 36). The show is called “Parents Corner,” and it runs four times a day at (6:15 a.m., 12:15 p.m., 6:15 p.m., and 10:15 p.m.). I used these five things in a Valentine’s Day segment airing through Feb. 15.

—Mitchelle Stephenson

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About Mitchelle Stephenson

I've gotta tell Mitchelle! Send your South County news tips, brag on your fab volunteers, talk traffic, police and fire or just say "howdy" to Mitchelle Stephenson, co-founding editor of the South River Source. or reach me in person on mobile: 410-353-4706.

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