You may think Valentine’s Day would not be a suitable subject for early years learning. However, that’s probably because as adults in the UK, we tend to think of Valentine’s Day as exclusively a celebration of romantic love.
While it’s true that the holiday has become commercialised and is largely celebrated by couples, other cultures use it to celebrate family and friends.
As part of your ‘Understanding the World’ EYFS directive, you can look at some of the Valentine’s Day traditions that take place across the globe.
There are also plenty of Valentine’s Day-themed activities that the children can enjoy.
Valentine’s Day Around the World
Depending on where you are in the world, you may celebrate Valentine’s Day differently. For example, in Wales, they exchange handcrafted wooden spoons but do so on January 25th – St Dwynwen’s Day. In South Korea, they actually celebrate love on the 14th day of every month, with a variety of traditions. In the Philippines, Valentine’s Day is often celebrated with huge mass weddings! Hundreds or even thousands of couples will exchange vows in events often sponsored by the Government.
The Japanese have an interesting tradition where women will make and give gifts of chocolate to the men in their lives on Valentine’s Day. They must wait exactly one month, until ‘White Day’ on March 14th to see if their gifts and therefore feelings have been reciprocated. Japanese schoolgirls will also make chocolates for their friends and exchange them at school.
Equality & Diversity
Young children must be aware of different kinds of families and that love is the important component. Valentine’s Day is the perfect time to gently introduce the idea of families that may look different to what the children are used to. This could refer to same-sex partnerships, blended families, adopted children, or single parents, for example.
Equally, of course, some of the children in your care may be from non-traditional families.
Either way, it is important to validate different types of love and families and not present anything non-traditional as strange or ‘other’.
One element of Valentine’s Day that is suitable for all ages is the giving and receiving of Valentine’s Cards. You can help the children to make their own, giving them options of colours and shapes so that they can express themselves. You can introduce the traditional reds and pinks and the hearts, flowers and chocolates that are common themes, but make it clear that their Valentine’s should be personal to them and their loved ones. That way, they can create their own interpretation of what a Valentine’s Card should be.
You can fold a piece of card over and draw half a heart shape from the fold. Once you’ve cut it out, you should have a perfect heart-shaped card. You could also do this with a flower shape.
Messy Heart Painting
Sensory play is important for EYFS development. Once babies stop exploring the world exclusively through their mouths, they will move on to touch and sensation. Messy play allows the children to experience and explore different textures and sensations. Finger painting is one way in which they can express their creativity and a heart is great shape for long strokes. You can paint on foil for a different texture and build up layers of colours. Make sure you have covered everyone’s clothes with a protective apron before you get started.
Valentine’s Day Playdough
If you still have red playdough leftover from Chinese New Year, this is a great opportunity to reuse it. If not, make some red, pink, or even purple playdough with the children. Then it’s time for ‘Dough Disco’. Search YouTube for dough disco, and you’ll find plenty of fun early years’ actions songs designed to accompany playdough and help develop fine motor skills.
You can then get down to decorating the playdough. Sparkles, mini pom-poms, floral petals, anything goes.
Playdough is great for sensory play, but sometimes you just need to get a little bit messy!
Red Rice Sensory Tub
Coloured rice is an evergreen resource and you may have some red from Chinese New Year or even Christmas activities? If not, you just need some red paint to dye enough rice to line a tub. Then just add some different textures. This can be anything from cotton wool balls to ribbons, plastic toys, nuts and bolts, wheels or building blocks. The children can take turns to dig in the rice and describe what they can feel. Either ask them to guess what they are holding, or one of their friends based on their description. Not only is this a sensory task, but it also helps to reinforce language skills.
Shaving Foam Counting Activity
Hide hearts of different sizes in a tub of shaving foam and let the children explore with their hands to find the hidden hearts. You can also ask the children to count up how many they have at the end of the activity. Alternatively, hide numbers or letters to practice literacy and numeracy skills. The shape of the letters and numbers as the children find them in the shaving foam will help them reinforce number and letter recognition. They can also describe how the foam feels as they search. Struggling to think up number activities? You can learn more about how to facilitate mathematical development in our Numeracy and the EYFS short course.
Candy Hearts in Water
Time for a bit of science? All you need is a tray of water and some love hearts or similar sherbet-based sweets. First, you can discover together whether the sweets will float or sink. Next, time how long it takes before the sweets start to fizz away. You could also do this with heart-shaped bath bombs if you prefer. This is a good exercise for time language, as well as descriptive language.
Homemade Chocolates/Heart Biscuits
Valentine’s Day is all about love, but chocolate is as synonymous with this holiday as it is with Easter. Take a leaf out of the Japanese playbook and make some chocolates to take home.
Alternatively, you can bake some heart-shaped biscuits together, each taking turns to add some ingredients. After the dough is made, help the children to roll it out on their mats (use a good sprinkling of flour) and show them how to use heart-shaped cutters to make their own biscuits. Once baked, they can be left plain, iced, or dipped in melted chocolate (with or without sprinkles), and taken home to be shared with loved ones.