Thursday, February 14, 2013

Don't Spend a Dime Celebrating Valentine's Day with Kids

What Are You Doing With Your Charges This Valentine's Day?

Nannies and au pairs can have a lot of fun with their charges without spending a dime of their own money. Although some in-home caregivers like to buy their charges presents and cards I am not even spending my own money on gifts. Instead, I am just going to make some fun meals and yummy treats with the children, borrowing books from the library, and helping the kids make homemade cards for their family.

Helping the kids make their own Valentines has many advantages. Not only are they inexpensive to make, they can become treasured mementos. Simply gather glue sticks, glitter, markers, paint, crayons, construction and craft paper, doilies, rubber stamps, and anything else the kids like to use to make  their own heartfelt Valentine's Day cards.

I will start my Valentine’s Day celebration at breakfast. It’s easy to make pancakes, then use heart shaped cookie cutters to cut out a Valentine shaped breakfast. I plan to top the pancakes with strawberries. I actually prefer using a thawed bag of frozen strawberries with the juice than fresh strawberries if available. If the parents allow you to, cover the strawberries with plenty of whipped cream.

For lunch I am using the same heart shaped cookie cutters to make Valentine shaped sandwiches. First, use a rolling pin on the bread to make it easier to cut. Spread peanut butter and red jelly or jam on the bread. I don't recommend cold cuts as they are difficult to cut with a cookie cutter. Use cookie cutters to make the sandwiches fun heart shapes.

For dinner, I plan to let the children make their own heart shaped pizzas. I like to buy pre-made pizza dough from the grocery store but you can find mixes in the baking aisle at the store or find dough recipes online. First, I form the dough into hearts. I fill little bowls with tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese, and other toppings the children like. I let them add their toppings to the dough and cook it.

If the children love baking you can make a sugar cookie recipe from scratch. But, it is fine to use pre-packaged cookie dough when making Valentine’s cookies with children. Roll the dough out on a non-stick surface. Add a touch of flour to the rolling pin before you try to roll the dough or it will stick. I let the children place the cookie cutters on the dough to cut out Valentine’s shapes. After the cookies cool, allow the children to decorate with white and pink frosting and sprinkles.

Cupcakes are easy to make with a box cake mix instead of making the recipe from scratch. Red velvet cake is great for Valentine’s cupcakes, but any flavor will work. Mini muffin pans create bite size cupcakes for the family to enjoy after dinner. Decorate the cupcakes with creamy icing. White icing can be turned into pink with a bit of red food coloring. Allow the children to stir the white icing and food coloring so they can see the frosting change colors. Use candy sprinkles and cinnamon red hot candies to decorate the cupcakes.

For Valentine’s Day, serve the children red juice. You can find 100% fruit punch juice in any grocery store.

Children's Books for Valentine's Day:

You're Lovable to Me by Kat Yeh
With a rhythmic text and whimsical illustrations, You're Lovable to Me celebrates the love between parent and child that transcends behavior and time and enables a mother rabbit to tell each of her six bunnies that, no matter what, "You're lovable to me." Later, she hears the same words from her own father who stresses that even though she is an adult, "When a papa loves a bunny, that's the way it will always be." Kit Weh's gentle story and Sue Anderson's lively ink and colored pencil illustrations in soft and strong pastels reflect a "big day" and "hard night" in a houseful of love. You're Lovable to Me is recommended for ages two-years old to five-years-old.

Love, Splat by Rob Scotton
Splat, the lovable fluffy black cat with the skinny legs, is back. Splat was first introduced in Rob Scotten's picture book Love, Splat (Splat the Cat). In Love, Splat (Splat the Cat) Splat has a crush on a Kitten, a pretty fluffy white kitten who is in his class. He makes her a Valentine despite the fact that every time she saw him, Kitten "pulled his ears and poked his belly, tied his tail and called him smelly." Shyness, insecurity, and a rival confront Splat, but he conquers them all and finds out, to his delight, the real reason Kitten keeps bothering him. Throughout his adventures, Splat is accompanied by his mouse friend Seymour. This is a funny, yet sweet, Valentine's Day story, recommended for three- to eight-year-olds.

Nate the Great and the Mushy Valentine by Marjorie Weinman Sharmat
This children's Valentine's Day book is from the Nate the Great detective series for beginning readers by Marjorie Weinman Sharmat. Nate the Great starts out with one case, finding out who gave his dog a Valentine, and then, his friend Annie asks him to help her find a missing Valentine. This entertaining story, with lots of illustrations by Marc Simont, is both a good read-aloud for four- to eight-year-olds and a good book for beginning readers, in grades two and three.

Roses Are Pink, Your Feet Really Stink by Diane de Groat

Somebody Loves You, Mr. Hatch by Eileen Spinelli
The Valentine's Day picture book Somebody Loves You, Mr. Hatch (paperback), by Eileen Spinelli, wonderfully illustrates the power of love and would make an excellent Valentine's Day gift for a four- to eight-year old. Colorless Mr. Hatch -- who works in a shoelace factory and eats a cheese and mustard sandwich for lunch every day with, just occasionally, a prune -- receives a huge Valentine box of candy with a card that says only, "Somebody loves you.'' Amazed, he samples it, shares it at work and, buoyed by his friendly reception, sympathetically helps several people out on the way home (e.g., he watches the newspaper stall so that its proprietor can take his cold to the doctor). He's soon baking brownies, hosting a neighborhood picnic, and reading to the local kids. Then the postman arrives with the news that the candy was delivered to the wrong address, putting poor Mr. Hatch into a funk; but his devoted new friends rally round to bring him back into their cheerful society. It is a charming book with a powerful message. The importance of love and kindness comes through loud and clear. Even very young children will understand how good it is to feel loved and how important it is to help others feel loved.

Elizabeth Kennedy
Kirkus Reviews
School Library Journal

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