Elementary classroom Valentine’s Day parties typically incorporate
the same three basic elements: (1) the card exchange, (2) the games and/or crafts and (3) the snacks and drinks.
Despite the creative
party-planning I’ve witnessed from class parents over the years, I’ve rarely
seen these basics change. And really, why should they? They tend to
guarantee fun for every child at the party, and that’s all that any classroom
party-planner could ever want.
This year, however, my third-grader’s class is doing
something a bit different for their Valentine’s Day party.
exchanging cards with one other. They’re still enjoying cookies and juice (and
a fruit plate, for good measure). But they’re also walking to a nearby assisted
living center to make Valentine’s Day crafts with the center’s senior
When I first read this information on the class party
sign-up email, I wanted to reach through my computer screen and hug the class parents
and teacher who organized the event. This party idea doesn’t just alter the
basic elements of a classroom Valentine’s Day party, it also transforms them in
a potentially beautiful way.
In the idealistic part of my mind, I imagine that the kids
in this third grade class are going to learn universal truths about love and kindness and then translate those truths into their everyday behavior. The more
realistic part of my mind, however, knows that one afternoon spent crafting
with senior citizens might not change all that much. Nonetheless, I think that these
children will learn some important lessons from this party.
Some kids in the class, for instance, might overcome their anxiety
and fear of interacting with senior citizens. These fears are quite common,
after all, and it often takes just one personal encounter to lessen that fear.
Some might learn that love isn’t just about romance and candy hearts. It also involves sharing, compassion and generosity.
To that effect, some of the kids in this class come to
recognize that seniors are just as funny, quirky, grumpy, happy, silly, quiet,
outgoing, introspective and outrageous as they are.
Some might learn that love isn’t just about romance and
candy hearts. It also involves sharing, compassion and generosity.
Some might see the ways in which acts of service are acts of
Some might grow to enjoy volunteering their time with people
from different generations.
Some of these kids might feel displaced by both the explicit
and implicit heteronormativity of most Valentine’s Day celebrations. A party
that transcends expressions of love between boys and girls might help these
children to feel more included.
Some might feel relieved that they can escape the
“lovey-dovey” aspects of Valentine’s Day, no matter what kind of person they
And some might simply have a fun afternoon making crafts
with, as my son put it, “the old people.” And there’s absolutely nothing wrong
Regardless of what they learn, the experience should reveal
some glimmer of truth about love, in all of its wonderfully varied manifestations.
And that is all any classroom party-planner (or parent) could truly ever want.