Make Your Own Candy-Free Valentines

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Families of children with food allergies are no stranger to navigating food-centric holidays — working (and worrying) double-duty to make sure your child is safe.

Valentine’s Day is one of those holidays, with chocolate hearts and candy hearts and gummy hearts raining down from above. It’s all about sugar! And red dye! And chocolate! when it should really be about sweet cards! and love! and … I don’t know, teddy bears?

Even when a school is health-focused and doesn’t allow sugary snacks, all logic seems to fly out the window during a holiday, when there are class parties that involve the kids bringing Valentine’s Day cards, Halloween cards, and Easter cards (really, Easter cards???) to share with their classmates. Often, those cards have a giant chocolate taped to the back … and who’s to say that parent has thoroughly checked the label to be sure it wasn’t cross-contaminated?

My son and I made these candy-free Valentines for his class last year, and they were such a hit that we made another batch for this year. (I am not, however, writing little personalized poems for each of his 11 classmates like I did last year. That was … a little much.)

Here’s how to make your own candy-free Valentines:

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1. Take a photo. Start by having a little photo shoot in front of the wall of your choice. Since we have a cute magnet board in our kitchen, I spelled out their names and posed them here. Tell them to hold out one hand out as far as possible — as if they were cupping an invisible glass of juice.

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2. Jazz it up. Upload your best photo into an editing program (or online tool like PicMonkey) and pretty it up with flowers, hearts, and a Valentine’s Day message. Since Charlotte was wearing her rainbow dress, I made her Valentine crazy and colorful. Dexter’s Valentine is more classic. In both pictures, I used the overlays to hid some of the jibberish letters on the left of the board (since I, uh, lacked the foresight to remove them before taking the picture).

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(While I was at it, I edited a few other photos of the kids to be used as mailable Valentines to family members. They won’t have the cool 3D effect that I’m explaining next!)

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3. Print ’em out. Use your home photo printer or have them printed online, and admire your handiwork.

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4. Cut two inch-long slits — one right above their hand, and one right below. A sharp craft knife is great for this, but you could totally use scissors, too. I’m not the boss of you.

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5. Pop in a 3D surprise. I picked up two eight-packs of pencils (with coordinating erasers) for like $2 per package at a dollar store. Slide a fun Valentine’s Day pencil or pen through the slit, and it will look like your child is holding it out to their friend. Adorable, inexpensive, and candy-free!

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Happy crafting!

Heather Laura Clarke, a contributing writer at Scratch or Sniff, lives in Nova Scotia, Canada, with her high-school sweetheart husband, seven-year-old son, and five-year-old daughter. She writes for newspapers and magazines across Canada and the U.S., and blogs about her family life at Heather's Handmade Life. Follow her adventures on Twitter or Instagram.

5 Comments to Make Your Own Candy-Free Valentines

  1. KNatGu

    SUper Duper Cute. My Hubby bought our daughter frozen loopie pop themed valentines over the weekend and I totally cringed when they came home. Hopefully I can work the pencil in instead.

    • Thanks! You could definitely do the 3-D pencil trick with a store-bought Valentine — it’ll give it a little extra personality.

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