Monday, February 11, 2013

Allergy-Free Classroom Valentines

by Kelley Lindberg

Valentine’s Day is another one of those candy-oriented holidays our kids can’t escape, like Halloween and Easter. If you’re really, really lucky, you have a school like ours that prohibits candy for holidays. For Valentine’s Day, they have kids hand out Valentines with compliments written on them instead. It’s a day to learn about kindness, seeing the good in each other, and sharing those observations to make others feel good about themselves.

However, most schools don’t do that. So lollipops, candy hearts, and chocolate kisses are the rule.

So here are a few tips for getting through your child’s Valentine’s Day safely. If you have some additional suggestions, please share them!

For Valentines to give:
  • Plenty of boxed Valentines now include extras like tattoos or stickers. Ta-da, you’re done.
  • Got a few more minutes? Shape a pipe cleaner (now called Chenille Stems for political correctness) into a heart and tape it to the card.
  • Or, tape a Valentine’s pencil or eraser or other small novelty toy to the card. For ideas, check out the BabyCenter Blog, where Deborah Mucklow has posted “15 Easy Non-Candy Valentines You Can Make,” and they’re all seriously cute!
What to do about the Valentines your child receives:
  • Eat no candy at school: First, before school, remind your child that absolutely no candy gets eaten until it comes home. If you think the temptation will be too great, give them a safe treat and tell them they can eat it when everyone else is eating their candy. (Let the teacher know about the treat so he/she knows the plan.)
  • Make a plan: The day before Valentine’s Day, sit down with your child and make a plan for what to do with the unsafe candy they bring home. If the child knows the plan and agrees with it, they’ll be more likely to resist trying to eat it at school and they won’t be quite as upset about having to give it up. (See some ideas for Valentine’s plans below).
  • Get Teacher's help: Enlist the teacher’s help to remind children to bring non-food treats if possible, to keep unsafe treats away from the allergic children, and to save their candy to eat at home instead of in the classroom. You can help both your child and your teacher see Valentine’s Day as a perfect opportunity to teach others about compassion.
  • Say thank you: And finally, remind your child to say thank you, no matter if they receive unsafe candy or not. Politeness is an important life skill, and that’s part of what they’re supposed to be learning on days like this. This is a good learning moment for 1) accepting disappointment with grace, not tantrums, and 2) looking for the good intentions in people, despite their mistakes or misunderstandings. If we throw a fit, we don’t endear ourselves to others, and we probably won’t convince them to think kindly on us next time. But if we’re gracious and polite about thanking them for the thought, if not the actual gift, then the other person is more likely to feel bad about their mistake and want to do better next time. It’s that whole “honey catches more flies than vinegar” situation. It’s a hard lesson to learn sometimes, but worth the effort in the long run.
Here are some ideas for Valentine’s plans you can work out with your child ahead of time:
  • Trade unsafe candy for a special treat, like an extra hour of TV, a trip to the Dollar Store (but set an amount ahead of time, like every 5 pieces of candy = one dollar-store item, one Hot Wheels car, or one Polly Pocket, etc.), a special outing with Mom or Dad, or a playdate with a best friend.
  • Put all the unsafe candy into a “Valentine’s Care Package” that Mom or Dad can take to work to share with their colleagues.
  • Take the unsafe candy to a nursing home, food bank, or shelter. (Even if it’s a small amount, it will be appreciated.)
  • Give the candy to someone they think needs cheering up.
  • Leave the candy beside their bed for the Tooth Fairy to take. (I hear she likes it when kids get rid of candy that can put cavities in those teeth she loves to collect, so maybe she will leave a coin or two under their pillow as a thank you.)
However you celebrate Valentine’s Day, I hope it’s full of love!




Unknown said...

LOVE it Kelley! Thanks <3

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

My son who are egg and peanut allergy goes to the same school as your son. He was so happy with his none food valentines. I think it is good for all of us to learn to celebrate less with food. There are a lot of diet related health conditions out there. Thanks