Valentine learning

Making Valentines can help your child develop letter recognition, fine motor skills, spatial awareness and more.

Learning Stages

By Melissa Catalano


Melissa Catalano is a schoolteacher and runs My Play Place, a play-based parent-participation toddler program where kids learn, create and socialize in a fun and safe setting. She holds a B.A. in Human Biology and an M.A. in Education from Stanford University. In a day filled with teaching and running a business, parenting is the job that still provides the most challenges and rewards.

Did you know that making Valentines is a great opportunity to help your child develop letter recognition, fine motor skills, spatial awareness and more? Here are a few things you can do with your child to prepare for this Valentine’s Day that will be fun, cute and educational.

  • Cutting out hearts provides a great introduction to symmetry! Fold a paper in half and position it with the crease to the left. Demonstrate to your child how you can draw a number 2, starting on the crease to form half a heart. (You won’t need the bottom line of the 2 but using a 2 is easier.) If your child is ready, he’ll want to draw 2s also. Emphasize that size doesn’t matter and there is no such thing as a perfect heart.
  • Cutting hearts is also great for developing fine motor control. Preschoolers who have had lots of cutting practice not only cut well, they write better! Cutting develops hand strength and that helps your child hold a pencil better and form her letters with more control.
  • Your child’s preschool has probably provided you with a list of students’ names. If your child is ready, she may want to write the names on her Valentines herself. Start early and spread this out over a few days. Even the most motivated kid can experience Valentine fatigue. If the list of names is small or unclear, consider writing it out yourself to make it easier for your child to copy from.
  • If the idea of writing the names sends your child running from the table, consider using letter stickers or stamps. He’ll get the same letter recognition benefit. Some preschoolers need to develop more fine motor control and hand strength before holding a pencil and writing for any length of time.
  • Cut a bunch of hearts that are small, medium and large from different colors of construction paper. Show your child how to choose one large, one medium and one small heart and stack them up in order to make a colorful layered heart. Your child is developing her vocabulary as you use words like bigger, biggest, smaller and smallest.
  • Before assembling the Valentines with the small, medium and large hearts, show your child how you can sort them. Sort by size (all the small hearts together) or by color (all the red hearts together).
  • Glue! I know that glue isn’t exactly a parent’s best friend, but it is important to give your child opportunities to experiment with squeezing glue from a bottle. Preschoolers are famous for the “more is better” approach to gluing. Carefully supervise and show your child how sometimes “less is more” and keeps things neat. And once again, controlling those small hand muscles eventually helps your child with writing.

Pace yourself, follow your child’s lead and have fun. Here’s to a warm and loving February!