Today I decided I’d post some cute Valentine’s Day activities for toddlers for all of you last minute planners out there!
My all-time best Valentine’s Day activity is buying a variety of children’s Valentine sets in popular themes (This year’s picks were Frozen, Sponge Bob, Jake and the Neverland Pirates, puppies, and Cars. Previous hits have been Dora, Elmo, Disney Princesses and any animal-themed card.)
I use the cards in sessions the following ways depending on a child’s interests and goals:
- Place the cards in a paper bag (so the child can’t see) and let him reach into the bag and select one card at a time making a big, big deal about what he’s going to get, who it is, etc… Use your facial expressions, voice and words to build anticipation. Create some verbal routines like “Shake, shake, shake” as you shake the bag before the child picks a card.
- Using the bag, teach the word or sign for “OPEN!” Teaching a child to say “OPEN!” loudly (yes, screaming it!) is fun for bossy toddlers and almost cajoles some of our friends into imitating a word before they even realize what’s happening. If a child approximates anything near the word “open,” even “oh” or “uh,” reward his effort and open the bag! Remember, we’re not going for perfection with a late talker!
- You can also use this activity to teach requesting words such as “more” or “please” IF you make the turns really quick, but only if a child LOVES what’s on the card – otherwise this activity may not be motivating enough for many of our little friends. If a child doesn’t seem to want to request, focus on the verbal routines you can create and then let them pick the card before they lose interest.
- When you’re talking about the cards, think beyond labeling! I LOVE to have toddlers follow a direction with the card such as pat ____, kiss ____, hug ______, tickle ____, etc… Or try directions such as “Give ____ to Mommy” or “Put ___ in your pocket” or everyone’s favorite, “Sit on _____.”
- Don’t wait for Easter…. Hide your Valentine’s Day cards in various places for a child to look for and find. Use a Valentine’s Day themed bucket to collect the cards. If you don’t have a bucket, any kind of bag will be fine – an old purse, a paper bag, a backpack, anything. Toddlers aren’t that picky when it comes to this kind of play routine!
- Cut a slit in the lid of a Valentine’s Day bucket so the child can slide the card in the hole AFTER you’ve done something else with the card. For some kids, picking a card, briefly talking about it and then running across the room to stuff the card in the bucket is enough. In this kind of game, the goal is to pay enough attention to you to learn to complete a repetitive task that involves movement. What a feat for some of our friends!
- Toddlers and preschoolers who are a little more mature may like to draw on the cards and then put them in the envelopes. You can play “mail” with the cards too. If you don’t have a toy mail box, make one from a shoe box and call it the “mailbox.” For a few years I used a white box with lots of stamps and stickers I placed on the outside. Most young children love any game that involves “stuff it in, dump it out.” Teach prepositions in, out, off, on, under, up, down EASILY with this kind of game.
Here are some links to videos from previous years with fabulous and EASY ideas to implement for this week with your little friends or your own little sweetheart.
If you need even more ideas for small groups of toddlers or preschoolers, try my online videos called Therapy Guides. Therapy Guides are one hour online videos complete with a written summary. (All ideas can be used for individual children as well or groups of siblings.) Check it out here:
If you’ve looking for TEACCH or structured teaching activities for toddlers who aren’t in to toys and who have visual strengths but short attention spans, try ideas in this Therapy Guide:
(Added bonus for SLPs… the Therapy Guides are offered with CEU credit!)
Enjoy this week with your little lovies!!