14 February 2011

Things I'm Learning - Toddler Crafts Sneak Up on You

I wasn't going to do a Valentine's Day type post - I'm not an especially Valentinesy type girl.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not anti-Valentine's Day; I don't hate it. Nor am I against other people celebrating it. I'm not the cynic in the corner muttering into my glass of wine that it's a trumped up holiday, a Hallmark invention, an excuse to boost sales in February after the retail doldrums of post Christmas consumer burnout.*


People want to celebrate love, I say have at it! An excuse to eat chocolate? Um, okay!

Since I eat chocolate every single day anyway, I don't need February 14th to tell me it's okay. And since I live in the modern world in a country that allows me a great deal of personal freedom, I don't need February 14th to tell me to celebrate the love in my life. Every day, I get up and choose to spend my day married to HWSNBN. There are no constraints - moral, cultural, or financial - on my decision to stay with him. I want to be with him. Every day. Some days more than others; he does, after all, snore on occasion. But living in a world where I don't have to stay married to someone means that I choose, over and over again, to be with him. And he with me. If that's not a daily affirmation and celebration of our love, I don't know what is. So we don't do anything special for each other on Valentine's Day. And since we don't do anything special for each other, it never occurred to us to do anything special for The Imp.

(I will take this moment to apologize to his future spouse now: sorry for not teaching him to buy flowers and stuff on this most auspicious day. Hopefully our example will have taught him, however, to buy flowers and stuff for no reason at all, and that will make up for it. Still friends?)

That being said, we do have one small, goofy Valentine's tradition. Six years ago this month, we moved into our apartment. We were both working absurd hours at the time, and couldn't manage to schedule the move in of All Our Stuff until the weekend after Valentine's Day. For a couple of weeks we had our bed, our clothes, and not much else. No dishes, no books, no furniture... That Valentine's Day, we both arrived home late, and famished. Our romantic 9pm Valentine's dinner was a couple of slices of pizza HWSNBN picked up on his way home. Having no cutlery, plates, or napkins - not even a tea towel - we stood together over the kitchen sink hoovering back our lukewarm meal. As a joke, the next year I arranged to have pizza handy, and we leaned over the sink to eat it, giggling like fools. We've done it every year since.

But that's not what this post is about!

This is a post about Crafty Stuff. Although I'm not a crafty gal, despite my love of cooking, sewing and crochet projects that I never finish. I recoil from glitter and glue sticks with something akin to horror, and am mightily grateful that The Imp can get his craft on at daycare, and I don't have to a) come up with fun stuff for him to do or b) clean up the mess after. Score one for outside the home childcare!

And then daycare provided a class list for Valentine's Day.

They were careful to explain that cards were optional and not expected, but that if we were going to bring something, we had to bring something for everyone. Fair enough. I tucked the list into my bag and promptly forgot about it, until the evening of the 13th, when I suddenly remembered. We've never had to do anything for the big day before - at his last daycare all the kids were so little they wouldn't have known what was going on. But now he's hanging with the big kids, the 3-5 year olds, and they most definitely do know what's going on.

It was dark and raining. I did not feel like venturing out to buy cards that would almost certainly end up in the garbage within 48 hours.

So I dug through the "craft supplies" (a plastic bag jammed in the back of a closet) and found: construction paper (someone had given us a pad) and markers. And we have tape and scissors.

The Imp: What we doing, Mommy?
Me: (faking enthusiasm) We're going to make cards for all your friends at school!
The Imp: Happy Birthday cards? (he's made a few of those, mostly scribbles, for family)
Me: Not birthday cards, Valentine's cards!
The Imp: Okay!

I handed him a piece of pink construction paper and a red marker to distract him while I tried to figure out what the hell we were going to do. He promptly and happily began to scribble.

Inspiration! I swapped The Imp's well scribbled-upon paper for a clean sheet, drew heart shapes onto it, and cut them out. Great, now we have hearts. Um...

Green, blue, yellow, and orange construction paper became simple one fold cards. I stuck tape on the back of the heart shapes, The Imp stuck them on the front of the cards. Perfect. I wrote "Happy Valentine's Day!" and "From [The Imp]" on the inside and presto voila alakazam, we can haz Valentine's Day cards for 25 kids in twenty minutes or less for zero dollars.


We wrote his classmates' names on the front of the cards, and delivered them to everyone's decorated paper bag card receptacle this morning. Win!

One of the other parents at daycare this morning looked at our efforts and said, "I can't believe you made all those cards."

Truth? Neither can I.

And now I have a mess to clean up.

*Although in writing that, it occurs to me that it all may be true whether I'm a cynic or not.


  1. I love setting up stuff to do crafts, but then it suddenly turns into a stressful mess. I think I'm better with food messes than glue and glitter messes.
    I am finding, however, as the kid gets older, that I'm getting either better at dealing with it, or she's getting better at being less messy. See... I knew that I was here to teach my child stuff, but I never knew how much she would teach me.

    Case in point, how to have fun and make cards.
    Great post!

  2. Those are great. I'm not a crafty type either, and sometimes I surprise myself. We made cookies for daycare last night. And a home made card for his caregiver.

    Next time I'll steal your idea and take the scribbled page and cut it into hearts. Score!!!

  3. That's what children do: they un-cynicise you.

  4. Your paragraph beginning, "Since I eat chocolate..." describes my life for the 54 years, two months and 22 days I have been wedded to Loki - except I'm the one who snores...

  5. I am happy to say that the handmade valentines really do get easier. This year I cut out the hearts, but my almost-6-year-old did everything else herself. My total investment of effort was about 10 minutes. Score!

    Having kids has made me much less cynical about these things, overall. Because now I have someone to be excited with, over every little thing. It's actually kind of fun and understated and cool.

  6. OK, confession time? I did the Valentine's cards with my daughter for her preschool mates the very morning she was supposed to take them, starting about 20 minutes prior to leaving time! I got a box of Winnie the Pooh V-day cards from my mother-in-law from the thrift store (score one for the thrift store finds) and suddenly remembered about them that morning. Shit! Had my daughter write the first initial of her name on the cards, and voila. Was also supposed to bring a "treat" for the class party. Heart-shaped cookies with pink and red sprinkles at IGA just next to the preschool - perfect! As you can tell, I am also not the super-creative mum who thinks up a new craft for the kids every day. I'll never be her - but I'm me!