Love is in the air!  Valentine’s Day is quickly approaching, and children will be getting excited for their next classroom celebration and treats to share with their class.  If your kids or grandkids are like mine, they’ll come home from a day of festivities with bags of character cards and more candy than they’ll ever eat (and I know, because I throw a lot of it away by the end of the summer.)  It seems like such a waste, so we’ve transitioned to non-food, more tenable goodies to share with their friends.

SKIP THE SWEETS – It sounds almost crazy to NOT give candy for Valentine’s Day.  Most of us grew up with conversation hearts or chocolates or lollipops teeming from our craft-made boxes and bags.  With so many aversions and allergies to foods nowadays, we’ve opted to share non-edible offerings such as glow sticks, pencils, bubbles, erasers, or toys.

You may want to check with your school district or their handbook for guidelines regarding what kinds of edible treats can be shared in the classrooms.  My children’s school also has a policy in place prohibiting snacks be brought unless they are individually packaged from a manufacturer, or come from a certified bakery to avoid possible exposure to allergens.  This ensures everyone can celebrate without worrying.

TIME YOUR SHOPPING TRIP – After the Christmas and new year holidays, retailers begin stocking their seasonal department shelves with hues of red and pink, and an assortment of Valentine’s Day-themed accessories.  Packs of pencils, erasers, bubbles and toys are marked down for a great deal.  I bought 36 pencils and 36 straws for less than $6.  We’ve had a surplus of construction paper and markers for years, so it will cost under $10 to share special goodies with two classrooms this year.

GET WORDY – One of my absolute favorite ways to share a homemade gift is with a play on words.  What kid doesn’t like to share a joke?  Try being creative with your puns, such as, “Sip-Sip Hooray! It’s Valentine’s Day!” and attach a silly straw to the tag.  “My heart BUBBLES over when you’re near, Valentine!” with a small bottle of bubbles.  “Valentine, you LIGHT up my life!” with a glow stick.  The possibilities are endless!

KEEP IT SIMPLE – Odds are, no matter how adorable your efforts, kids are still going to go straight for the treat, so don’t exhaust yourself – or your budget – by handing out finely detailed cards or tags with your offerings.  Construction paper, glue sticks, a hole punch, and some markers will make simple and adorable accessories.

FEATURE FIGURES – Does your little one want to show off their favorite animated character, or something that resonates the theme?  Don’t underestimate what a few stickers or colored paper can do to liven up a card.  I buy sheets of 24-100 for $1-2 most of the time, and they’re versatile for almost any occasion.

No matter what you and your child or grandchild choose to share in celebration, you’re sure to find frugal ways to make personal and festive gifts for their little friends!