How do you celebrate Valentine’s day with a preschooler?
Back in 1986, our nursery school’s annual holiday party was postponed because I was due to deliver my daughter Mia, in mid-December, and our school board did not want to have a party without me. Thus, the annual Little Folks School Valentine’s Dance was born!
Thirty-two years later, when I approached the church hall last Friday night, where the dance is held, I experienced it from a completely different perspective. Arriving when others arrive, instead of being inside orchestrating the action, I got a wonderful glimpse of the anticipation and excitement that this Valentine's celebration evokes in young children. Families were converging on the corner of 31st and O Street, all dressed up and wearing their dancing shoes. Young children were running ahead, calling back to their parents to hurry to the party. Several called out, “C’mon, I hear the music!”
According to my four decades of yearly polls about the favorite color of nursery school children, the color red always wins. This Valentine's Dance or prom for preschoolers is a red, pink and purple, dream come true for the younger set. With a DJ spinning the beats that every four-year-old loves, from the oldies to Bruno Mars, you’ve got yourself a party.
While I’m not advocating throwing a Valentine’s Day extravaganza, attendance at this year’s dance reminded me of how and why this holiday is not just for lovers.
Besides the color red, Valentine’s Day has all the ingredients that appeal to young children. Let’s start with connection, this holiday is all about celebrating those we love. For children this age, family, and friends are everything. Making or giving a valentine to the special people in their lives becomes a very exciting proposition. Young children love envelopes! Even in this era of Evites and online bill pay, there continues to be a daily delivery of envelopes to our door. Children notice and like all the activities that we do, they want to be a part of the action. Throw in some candy hearts, and sweet treats and this celebration ranks up there with a birthday party.
Children in this age group are beginning to have a solid grasp of feelings, their own and the feelings of others. They understand that what they say and do can affect those around them. They know how to make others happy and given the opportunity will happily give a valentine and relish the smile they get in return. If there is time to make valentines, something as simple as red or pink paper with some added color can extend and enrich the celebration.
I am visiting schools in New York City this week and while spending time in a kindergarten class this morning I witnessed the excitement this holiday brings. The teacher shared the pride of her students who had written their names on their valentines and in some cases had written their classmates names as well. The celebration was loaded with learning, hitting the social-emotional notes as well as the pre-academic ones.
When I sent out my love notes today, I was sure to send a special message to my daughter Mia, whose birthday unintentionally began a wonderful Valentine's Day Dance tradition for hundreds of Little Folks families and friends.
Happy Valentine's Day to all!