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Valentine's FunValentine’s Day might evoke enjoyable past memories of exchanging Valentine’s cards with loved ones, playing party games and enjoying delicious food. However, for some, simply the idea of any special holiday can conjure up memories of anxious social situations, sensory nightmares and unsavory unfamiliar foods.

I think it’s time to “take back” this holiday! Start your own family traditions to make Valentine’s Day fun for everyone!

While celebrating, you can address some challenges including functional, life, social and sorting skills as well as promote learning through the senses.

What’s Cookin’?

Valentine’s Day is always an opportunity to indulge in some favorite foods. Consider what your child really enjoys eating. Pick something that you can create together. Some suggestions are cookies, cupcakes or Rice Krispy treats.   Add the following to your shopping list for other activities suggested later: Brach’s Conversation Hearts, bag of rice and red food coloring (natural dyes).

  • Go online or search a recipe book for the ingredients.
  • Create a visual shopping list to buy these items (pictures or words – whatever is appropriate).
  • Practice life skills. Take your child shopping and help them select the items using the visual list.
  • Use self-checkout. Let your child scan the items and pay by cash or debit card.
  • Have your child help bag the items and carry them to the car.

Get Cookin’!

Once you have gathered all the items needed to make your treat, create a visual or picture-by-picture recipe.

  • Take the time to guide your child step-by-step through following the recipe
  • Use hand-over-hand or gestural prompts to help. Assist as little as possible.
  • Remember “it’s the process, not the product!” It’s okay if it’s not perfect.
  • Teach safety with kitchen tools, hot appliances, etc.
  • Don’t forget to be silly and have fun!

Have Some Fun

Bingo can be a fun and simple game for all ages. Print out a “Valentine Bingo Template”.

  • Consider printing them in black and white and let your child color them in before playing.
  • Use those Brach’s Conversation Hearts as bingo markers. When the game’s over, eat the candy!
  • Let your child decide how each game is won (black out, X-out or line bingo)
  • Take turns calling out the picture cards. Turn taking and waiting are great social skills.

Heart to Heart Fun

Now is the time get creative with your Brach’s Conversation Heart candies!

  • Create fun, loving or silly sentence strips with the words.
  • Sort the candies by color into bowls – great for sorting skills
  • Line them up by colors and count them together. Practice a variety of math skills.
  • Draw or print out a heart outline. “Draw” glue on the outline and let your child glue on the candy. Great for sensory defensives.
  • Draw a simple brown tree trunk with branches. Have your child glue hearts the branches.

Create a Valentine Sensory Bin

Sensory bins are a fun addition to this special day and can be useful for practicing fine motor skills, engaging imagination as well as promoting learning through the senses. First thing in the morning, color your rice pink or red. Following are some ideas of what you can put into your sensory bin, but don’t limit yourself, come up with your own!

Roses are Red, Violets are Blue. Valentine’s Day, Can be fun for you!