I am no artist, nor have I ever claimed to be. For my daughter's first Valentine's Day last year, I purchased a box of Winnie the Pooh valentines at a local toy store, printed her name on them and addressed them to each of her little friends.
I thought that was fine, even though she returned from the babysitter's on Valentine's Day with a cute little homemade valentine from her 2 1/2 year old cousin.
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A year later, I was asked to write a story about family Valentine's Day art. I can do this, I thought, but didn't expect to get involved in the story.
I spoke with Merissa Vevasis of Shippensburg, Pa. She is a community arts specialist who is a volunteer art teacher with Corpus Christi School in Chambersburg, Pa., and an instructor in Mommy and Me Art and Theatre Classes at Capitol Theatre in Chambersburg.
During a recent class, Vevasis led students, ages 18 months to pre-kindergarten, in a class in printmaking for Valentine's Day. The monoprints they created are where painting is done on plates with non-toxic tempera paints, paintbrushes and cotton swabs. Flat sheets of plastic or glass can also be used. Then make a print by carefully laying a sheet of paper on the painted image and rubbing the paper with a roller. Pull off the paper carefully to preserve the image.
Vevasis says that this activity can be done at home as well, using a cookie tray placed on a smooth surface. The plate can be cleaned and used repeatedly to make new prints, Vevasis adds.
Another activity for young children that Vevasis shared with the class was teaching them to cut out hearts, another simple activity that can be done at home. Take a piece of creased paper and cut a heart shape, similar to a half-circle. This is good practice for children who are using scissors for the first time.
Tissue-paper flowers can also be created by preschoolers. Vevasis explains this is another relatively simple craft, made with tissue paper, chenille stems (formerly known as pipe cleaners) and scissors. Parents or other caretakers might want to take a more active role in cutting a small stack of tissue paper into a rectangle and folding the stack into pleats, accordian-style for the kids. Tightly wind one end of a chenille stem around the middle of the pleated tissue paper; trim the ends of each side of the paper to give the pedals a unique look; and gently separate each layer of paper, pulling upwards toward the middle of the flower; repeat with the second side. Vevasis said an ink pen be used as an alternative to the chenille stem.
For elementary-school-aged children, a tissue-paper vase can be made, as well. Vevasis suggests using an empty soda bottle, watered-down glue and cut pieces of tissue paper. Lightly glue the tissue paper onto the bottle into a pattern or unique design.
"This is better than anything you can get from a florist," Vevasis says.
Another craft for elementary-school children are sailor's valentines. They can be done by gluing tiny seashells onto paper, wood or boxes. Sailor's valentines originated in the 19th century as souvenirs sailors brought to their loved ones from their journeys. Vevasis says this is good craft for kids who are "detail oriented."
Mobiles made out of old playing cards are another Valentine craft Vevasis recommends for children. The only items needed are playing cards, a clothes hanger, string and a hole punch. Felt is an optional accent for decoration.
The cards, specifically the heart suit, can be hung from the hanger. The diamond suit would make a lovely scene as well.
Joan Selby, former art teacher at North Hagerstown High School, led a class for elementary school children earlier this week at Contemporary School of the Arts & Gallery Inc., in downtown Hagerstown. She brought a variety of materials to the class to give participants variety in creating homemade valentines for their loved ones.
Starting with a heart-shaped pattern, participants could cut out hearts from papers of various colors and designs. Smaller hearts could be cut out and glued on the larger base. Paper lace doilies, too, could be added as embellishment, and glitter and ribbon were suggested as additional accents.
Selby also provided photos cut from a bridal magazine to add additional detail. Magazine photos from prom and home decor magazines might also add attractive touches to the art. Scenes from old greeting cards can also be used for decorative accents on homemade valentines.
Another trick with a cut-out heart is to cut a photo-shaped "window" into a smaller paper heart, and glue a favorite photo into the window on the larger heart for the recipient. To do this, cut a slit into the smaller heart that can be folded open on both sides to reveal the photo.
Again, I am not crafty. But while attending Selby's class, I decided to give the homemade heart a try. I cut out one large and one medium-sized heart. I glued the top of the smaller heart onto the large one, and pasted a picture of a cat, one of my daughter's favorite pets, under the heart. On Valentine's Day, she can lift up the medium-sized heart to reveal a picture of a darling kitten. I hope she likes it.
Simple? Yes, but it was a big step for someone who hasn't made such a craft project since ... well, never mind. In any case, I am inspired to help my toddler make her own valentines. Not only will the project save money, but it will get our creative juices flowing, and provide us with additional bonding time. Sounds like the perfect recipe for a happy Valentine's Day.