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Love-ly Crafts & Gifts

"If you like to make things out of wood, or sew, or dance, or style people's hair, or dream up stories and act them out, or play the trumpet, or jump rope, or whatever you really love to do, and you love that in front of your children, that's going to be a far more important gift than anything you could ever give them wrapped up in a box with ribbons."

Fred M. Rogers (aka Mr. Rogers)

Gifts can be many things. They come in different shapes and sizes, and are given on different occasions. There are some holidays, like Christmas, when gifts are almost expected. There's a lot of social pressure to give people gifts, and the gifts tend to be more elaborate and expensive. One of the great things about Valentine's Day is that there isn't that kind of pressure. The idea is to give small tokens of affection. It's a great time to let young and old know that you care about them. This section contains meaningful craft and gift ideas to help you do just that.

Don't forget, of course, that the best gift of all for Valentine's Day and throughout the year is the gift of yourself -- your time and attention. That's a gift both young and old can give to each other, whether it's an older person acting as a mentor to a young person (see the mentoring material that's part of the Legacy Project) or a young person visiting older adults in a nursing home.

Some selected storybooks about Valentine's Day, love in general, and intergenerational love in particular: Love Letters by Arnold Adoff; I Love You Because You're You by Liza Baker; Hearts, Cupids, and Red Roses: The Story of the Valentine Symbols by Edna Barth; One Very Best Valentine's Day by Joan W. Blos; Something to Remember Me By by Susan V. Bosak; I Loved You Before You Were Born by Anne Bowen; Consider Love: Its Moods and Many Ways by Sandra Boynton; I Want to Say I Love You by Caralyn Buehner; The Story of Valentine's Day by Clyde Robert Bulla; Valentine by Carol Carrick; The Runaway Valentine by Tina Casey; I Love You by Remy Charlip; Roses Are Pink, Your Feet Really Stink by Diane De Groat; Cranberry Valentine by Wende Devlin; Valentine's Day by Gail Gibbons; Love Is... by Wendy Anderson Halperin; Holly Pond Hill: The Hugs and Kisses Contest by Paul F. Kortepeter; I Love You: A Rebus Poem by Jean Marzollo; Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney; Hugs and Hearts by Toni Trent Parker; Somebody Loves You, Mr. Hatch by Eileen Spinelli.

For information on the history of Valentine's Day and some "love lessons," read The True Story About Love section of this kit. Related activities in other sections of this kit include: "Hug Card", "I Love You Heart Card", and "Top 10 Books to Say I Love You" in the Story Steppingstones section; "String of Hearts", "Heart Tree", "Heart of the Matter", and "Big Heart Award" in the Heart to Heart section. Related activities in other kits include "Hand Full of Love" and "Toddler Album" in the Grandparents Day Activity Kit.

Activities: Pinprick Valentine; Acrostic Valentine; Popping Love List Card; Love Knot Card; Color Me Love; Fuzzy Flower; Valentine's Placemat; Candy Candle; Krispie Kiss; Valentine's Strawberry Surprise.


Pinprick Valentine

Connections: Families; Schools (Art); Community Groups.

What You Need: Colored paper; pencil; fine ballpoint pen, straight pin, or sharp pencil; pencil crayons and/or markers. Optional -- piece of corrugated cardboard.

Doing It:

Valentine's Day is an opportunity to let young and old know that you care about them. Everyone loves to get a Valentine's greeting and feel special. Here's an unusual card children can make for parents, grandparents (near or far), and grandfriends (e.g. an older adult neighbor, a friend from an intergenerational program, an older adult in an assisted living facility).

Pioneers made many early North American valentines by hand. In one style of card, sewing needles were used to create fancy designs by poking holes through paper so that, in the end, it looked like paper lace. You can create a similar card.

Start by folding a sheet of colored paper in half to create a card. Open up the card and turn it over so that the front is laying flat. Use a pencil to lightly sketch a heart or other design onto the front of the card. You can also put a border around the edges of the front of the card and add smaller designs (e.g. hearts, flowers, birds) around the central design.

Now, using the tip of a fine ballpoint pen, a straight pin, or a sharp pencil, carefully poke holes along the edges of your drawings as you hold the sheet in the air (or have the sheet laying on top of a piece of corrugated cardboard). Make the holes as close together as possible, without touching and without tearing the paper. Pinprick the entire front of the card.

Write whatever you like inside the card with a pencil crayon or marker.


Acrostic Valentine

Connections: Schools (Language Arts, Art); Families; Community Groups; Seniors Groups/Facilities.

What You Need: Colored paper (red or pink); scissors; pencil crayons and/or markers.

Doing It:

Valentine's Day is a popular time for writing poetry to give to people you care about. An "acrostic" poem is one in which the first letter of each line forms a word or series of words. A popular way to give someone a valentine in the latter part of the 18th century was to create an acrostic poem using the first letters of their name.

Children can make a personal valentine for a parent, grandparent, or grandfriend by using their name to write an acrostic poem. An acrostic poem can also be a special gift from a grandparent or grandfriend who enjoys creative writing (children love to see their name "up in lights").

Cut a big heart out of colored paper (red or pink is nice). Write out the first letters of the person's name that you're giving the card to. Then, make up a line of poetry starting with each letter. For example, a child creating an acrostic poem for a grandfriend named Tony might write:

To a grandfriend that's really great,
Only you have that special loving trait.
No one else has what you do,
You make me feel very loved too!


Popping Love List Card

Connections: Families; Schools (Art); Community Groups.

What You Need: Copies of "I Love You Because" heart pattern; 12 x 18 inch red construction paper (or tape together two 8 1/2 x 11 inch sheets); white and pink paper; scissors; pencil crayons and/or markers; pen/pencil; glue. Optional -- glitter glue (available in a craft store).

Doing It:

There are probably many reasons you care about the people you do. But people may not know exactly what you appreciate most. Why not give them a list? Here's a card children can make for parents, grandparents, and grandfriends.

Start by filling in the "I Love You Because" heart with all the reasons you appreciate the person you're giving the card to. For example, if you're giving the card to your grandma, the reasons on your list might include "you read great stories, you take me shopping, you give me lots of hugs, we bake cookies together, you always listen to me." When you're finished your list, color in the decorative hearts on the big heart and cut the big heart out.

Now fold a large sheet of red construction paper in half. The front of the card will fold up, so place the card in front of you lengthwise with the fold at the top. Decorate the front of the card with heart shapes cut from white and pink paper, pencil crayons and/or markers, and even glitter glue. Include the words "Happy Valentine's Day."

Cut three 4 x 1 1/2 inch strips of paper. Lay the strips on top of each other and fold them, all at once, into an accordion. Separate the strips. Glue one end of each strip to the back of the heart: one strip on the upper part of one half of the heart; the second strip on the upper part of the other half of the heart; and the third strip toward the bottom point of the heart. Don't go too close to the edge of the heart or the center of your heart will sag. When the glue is dry, glue the other ends of the strips to the inside of the card so that the heart is in the center of the inside of the card.

When you open the card, the heart will pop up with your love list. Make sure you write in who the card is for and who it's from on the inside of the card, on the construction paper part.

Variation: Instead of the love list heart popping up inside the card, cut out (in the shape of a big heart) a color photocopy of an enlarged photo of yourself. For example, a grandchild giving the card to a grandparent (especially one who lives a distance away) can include a photo of themselves and write in "I Love Grandma."


Love Knot Card

Connections: Families; Schools (Language Arts, Art); Community Groups.

What You Need: Copies of the Love Knot card; paper; pencil; pencil crayons.

Doing It:

The true-love knot is a traditional Valentine's greeting, once very popular on English and American valentines. The love knot is made up of graceful loops with no beginning and no end, representing endless love. Written into the loops are messages of love and caring. A recipient reads the messages by turning the card around and around, following the path of the love knot.

Children can make a love knot card for a parent, grandparent (this is a great card to mail to a long-distance grandparent), or grandfriend using the card pattern supplied.

Start by writing down a list of short messages about the person you're giving the card to. For example, "you're the best", "I love you", "thanks for always being there for me", "you're kind and caring", "there's nothing better than being with you", "you're my best friend", "your hugs are the best", "your smile brightens my day", etc.

Once you have your list, carefully print the messages inside the looped love knot (which is the front of the card). Use freshly sharpened pencil crayons. You may want to do each message in a separate color, or even each letter of each word in a different color. Start anywhere inside the love knot path. Write one message and separate it from the next message with a colored dot between the messages. Turn your paper around as you write, following the love knot path. The idea is that the messages flow from one to the other, with no beginning and no end. As you get close to filling all the available space, choose a message that will fit exactly into the space you have left.

Color in the hearts that are on the front of the card, fill in the "To" and "Love", and fold the full sheet into quarters to make the completed card.

Now the recipient of your card can "read the special messages from me to you by following the Love Knot through and through!"


Color Me Love

Connections: Families; Schools (Art); Community Groups.

What You Need: Copies of heart pattern; crayons; scissors; cotton balls; vegetable oil; newspaper.

Doing It:

Even very young children can brighten Valentine's Day for parents, grandparents (this craft can easily be mailed to a long-distance grandparent), and grandfriends (e.g. in a nursing home) by making this "stained glass" effect decoration.

Use crayons to color in the heart pattern in a variety of bright colors. Choose colors suitable for Valentine's Day and that set off the small hearts and the bow. Cut out the big heart.

Using a cotton ball, rub vegetable oil on the back of the heart. Lay the heart flat, crayon side down, on a pile of newspaper to dry.

Once it's dry, you can tape the heart in a window. It will look very pretty when the light shines through.


Fuzzy Flower

Connections: Schools (Art); Families; Community Groups; Seniors Groups/Facilities.

What You Need: Colorful yarn; scissors; chenille pipe cleaners (available in a craft store); 2-hole buttons in colors complementary to the yarn (holes should be big enough to slide a pipe cleaner through).

Doing It:

Flowers are a popular gift on Valentine's Day. Here are some fuzzy ones you can make using yarn. One, two, or a whole bouquet of these flowers are a nice gift for a child to make for a parent, grandparent, or grandfriend. A single flower can also be used as a corsage or boutonniere for an intergenerational Valentine's Day event (children and grandfriends can make the flowers together in preparation for the event).

This activity has been provided by United Generations Ontario (Toronto, Canada). It's one of many activities that are part of a highly successful intergenerational program in which several hundred children, youth, and older adults work together in yarn-related activities. The program also has a "service learning" component -- many of the items produced are given as gifts or donations to community agencies, organizations, and institutions serving children, youth, families, and seniors.

To make a flower, leave a 5 inch tail and start winding yarn around four fingers 20 times. When you've made the 20 loops, leave another tail at the end that's 5 inches long. Slip the loops off your fingers. Wind the two tails around the middle of the loops of yarn a couple of times and then tie them off, making a knot at the back. The loops of yarn become the petals of the flower.

Take a pipe cleaner and poke it through one hole of a two-hole button. Bend the pipe cleaner and poke it back through the other hole of the button. You should now have a button with two, equal-length pipe cleaner tails.

Slip the center of the loops of yarn between the pipe cleaner tails so that the two pipe cleaner tails and the two yarn tails are at the back of the flower and the button is on top of the flower. Twist the pipe cleaner tails once to secure the button to the center of the flower.

Now twist/braid together the yarn tails and pipe cleaner tails to form a single stem for the flower. Fluff out the loops of yarn so that you have a fluffy flower around the button center.

Note: These instructions make a small flower. To make a slightly larger flower, loop the yarn around something wider, like a child's entire hand (fingers and thumb), an adult hand, or a piece of cardboard.


Valentine's Placemat

Connections: Seniors Groups/Facilities; Families; Schools (Art); Community Groups.

What You Need: A variety of children's valentines; 11 x 17 inch colored construction paper (or tape together two 8 1/2 x 11 inch sheets); pen/pencil; scissors; glue; clear contact plastic (available in a craft store). Optional -- photo (duplicate or color photocopy) of you with person you're making the placemat for.

Doing It:

This placemat can brighten Valentine's Day for a parent, grandparent (mail it to a long-distance grandparent), or grandfriends (e.g. children can make placemats as gifts for seniors in a care facility to use on their tables). This is also an easy craft older adults with functional limitations can make to give to young grandchildren. Many crafts for older adults may have therapeutic value, but lack meaning. This activity, in this context, is one of the exceptions. Many older adults with physical or cognitive limitations are very dependent on other people. When family comes to visit, they often feel they have little to offer. They value the opportunity to be able to make something for a grandchild. This placemat is a way for "grandpa to be with you on Valentine's Day." Older adults and children can also make these placemats together (anytime you introduce an intergenerational component to an activity, it becomes much more meaningful). Depending on the functional ability of older adults who are doing this activity, you can have someone else (e.g. staff) put on the clear contact plastic.

Choose from among the valentines and glue them onto a sheet of construction paper. You can also cut out pieces of the valentines to create a design. If you have a photo of you and "your valentine," integrate it into the design. For posterity's sake, add your name and date in the bottom, right corner of the placemat.

Carefully place the placemat on the sticky side of the clear contact plastic. Place another sheet of clear contact plastic on the other side of the mat. Smooth out any wrinkles, and cut off the excess, leaving a narrow border of plastic. This makes the placement somewhat durable and wipeable.


Candy Candle

Connections: Seniors Groups/Facilities; Families; Schools (Art); Community Groups.

What You Need: Wrapped (in foil) chocolate Peppermint Pattie; roll of Lifesavers; Hershey Kiss; self-stick, red gift bow; scissors; tape.

Doing It:

What would Valentine's Day be without candy? Here's a candy treat children can make to give to parents, grandparents, and grandfriends. It's also a very easy gift for an older adult with functional limitations to make for a grandchild or young friend. It becomes very meaningful because it allows the older adult to do something special for a child. Yet another option is for children and older adults to make candy candles together to then give to staff and volunteers in a seniors facility as a Valentine's "thank you" for everything they do.

Use the wrapped Peppermint Pattie as the base of the candle. Stick the red gift bow to the top of the patty. Cut out the center loop of the bow.

Take the outside, paper wrapping off the Lifesavers, but leave the foil on. Use a loop of tape to secure a Hershey Kiss to one end of the Lifesaver roll. Tape the other end of the Lifesaver roll into the bow where you removed the center loop. You now have a "candle" with a "flame," sitting in a "candleholder."


Krispie Kiss

Connections: Seniors Groups/Facilities; Families; Community Groups.

What You Need: 12 cups Rice Krispies cereal; 1/2 cup margarine; 2 packages of regular marshmallows (about 80 marshmallows) or 10 cups of miniature marshmallows; 1 tsp vanilla extract; large pot (if you don't have a large enough pot, cut this recipe in half and make two batches); spoon; squares of aluminum foil; 3/4 x 5 inch strips of white paper; pen/pencil; red ribbon; scissors; tape. Optional -- plastic funnel and cooking oil spray; plastic gloves (useful in a group activity).

Doing It:

Most older adults, even those with some dietary restrictions or who have difficulty chewing, can enjoy a Rice Krispie treat. So this is an appropriate food gift for a child to give an older adult in an assisted living facility. At the same time, it's a very easy food gift for older adults with functional limitations to make for young friends. In the context of making a Valentine's Day gift, the activity becomes very meaningful.

To make the Rice Krispie mixture, melt the margarine in a large pot over low heat. Add the marshmallows, stirring until melted and well blended. Remove from heat. Stir in vanilla. Add the cereal, stirring until coated.

When the mixture has cooled slightly, lightly spray the inside of a plastic funnel with cooking oil spray. Take a handful of the Rice Krispie mixture and push it into the plastic funnel to mold it into a cone shape (or you can use your hands to shape the mixture into a cone shape). Slip out the Rice Krispie cone and place it on a square of aluminum foil (large enough to completely wrap the cone). Allow the Rice Krispie cone to cool and harden.

Write a personal Valentine's greeting onto a paper strip. Tape one end of the strip to one corner of the foil square. Wrap the Rice Krispie cone in the foil and seal the foil at the top with a twist, so that the Valentine's greeting is sticking out of what is now a Krispie Kiss.

To finish off the gift, make a bow using a piece of red ribbon and tape it to the aluminum foil.


Valentine's Strawberry Surprise

Connections: Seniors Groups/Facilities; Families.

What You Need: Angel food cake; 1 package of strawberry Jello; 1 container of frozen whipped topping; 1 package of frozen strawberries; 10 x 13 inch sheet cake pan; bowl; measuring cup; hot and cold water; spoon. Optional -- plastic gloves (useful in a group activity); a few fresh strawberries, quartered, with some additional whipped topping.

Doing It:

This is a tasty, no-bake Valentine's treat for all ages. It's something parents and children, grandparents and grandchildren, or grandfriends/young friends (i.e. as part of an intergenerational program) can make together. It's also a great activity for older adults who may have some functional limitations. Activities related to food -- even when they're simple -- are usually winners in most seniors facilities. Cooking is familiar. Many people enjoy it and the end result. And older adults feel useful and productive as they engage in a meaningful activity. They can make this as a Valentine's dessert for themselves, or as a treat to offer visiting grandchildren or other young friends. Depending on the abilities of the older adults involved, you can pre-prepare certain steps and help with others. You can also set up an assembly line, with each person doing one step suited to their abilities.

Start by tearing the cake into walnut-sized pieces. Scatter the cake pieces over the bottom of a cake pan.

Dissolve the Jello in 2 cups of boiling water and then 2 cups of cold water. Allow it to set a little.

Fold in frozen strawberries and slightly thawed whipped topping. Pour the mixture over the cake pieces and smooth if desired. Refrigerate until set.

If you like, you can then spread a thin layer of whipped topping over the top and decorate with pieces of fresh strawberries.

Another easy food activity you can use for Valentine's Day is "Chocolate Strawberries from the Heart" in the Crafts & Keepsake Gifts section of the Holiday Activity Kit.

From Valentine's Activity Kit by Susan V. Bosak ©2004

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