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Do You Like Me? Circle: Yes or No

By , Becky Hand, Registered Dietitian
Some time ago, I received a phone call from a frantic mother asking for fun and healthy treats to bring to her child’s Valentine’s celebration at school. She needed these snacks to taste great while also obeying the school district’s wellness policy. What healthy substitute could she serve to convey the spirit of Valentine’s Day while pleasing all those sugar-loving taste buds?

I let out a sigh as I experienced a quick flash-back to 1970 and thoughts of Terry, my fourth-grade crush. Anyone in my age bracket will remember the days when each child had to bring a shoebox to school to decorate with red construction paper hearts, paper doilies, and lots of glitter. This decorated box became your mailbox for all the valentines you would receive from your classmates. About two weeks before the big event, a letter was sent home from the teacher containing the name of every child in the classroom and parents were instructed to make sure that a valentine was provided for each child on the list so that no feelings would be hurt. Of course, these were also the days of "hand-made" valentines; no mass-produced, store-purchased valentines allowed. This project took days to complete as creativity and perfect penmanship were at an all-time high. A perfect valentine had to be created for each classmate to convey your true intent. Mixed messages could turn into mayhem in a classroom already charged with excessive energy and excitement.

These days, some schools do not even allow Valentine's celebrations since they cut into valuable classroom time. Other districts allow an hour of fun, but the foods distributed during party time must comply with wellness policy guidelines. I have assisted several school districts with wellness plan development, so I know a thing or two about making smart substitutions for sugary Valentine’s treats.

I have put together a list of three easy-to-make, healthy treats for your child’s Valentine’s party-- the same three treats that I suggested to the mother on the phone years ago. They were a hit with her child’s class, and hopefully you will find one to brighten up your child’s Valentine’s Day celebration as well. Remember, check with your child’s teacher about what food allergies are present in the classroom before bringing in anything edible.

Oh yes, and if you are wondering about Terry’s response to my Valentine's question of “Do you like me?”, he circled 'yes' and carried my books to the bus stop later that afternoon. Ahhh! Young love at its best.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Dietitian Becky

Ruby Red Smoothies


1 cup strawberry yogurt
1 banana
½ cup orange juice
10 frozen strawberries

To make:
Place ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth and creamy.
For child-size portion, pour smoothie into plastic bathroom cups (3 ounce size).
Servings: 14

Valentine Jewels


14 small rice cakes or 7 small bagels, cut in half
7 tablespoons cream cheese, nut butter, seed butter, peanut butter or hummus
7 strawberries
Craisins, dried cherries, dried blueberries

To make:
Remove stem from strawberries. Rinse and pat dry. Cut in half.
Spread ½ tablespoon cream cheese or other spread on each rice cake or bagel half.
Have children decorate with strawberries and dried fruit.
Servings: 14

Cupid's Arrows


Celery sticks, 4 inches long, 3 per child
Hummus, peanut butter, soynut butter, sun butter, or cream cheese
Craisins, dried cherries, dried blueberries

To make:
Carefully cut celery into 4-inch sticks. Cut one end of each celery stick into a point. Spread the hummus, nut butter or cream cheese in the center of each celery stick. Top with dried fruit in fun designs. Or have children create their own. Serving size: 3 sticks per child

As a child, what was your favorite part of Valentine's Day parties at school?

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I don't "push" Valentine's Day with my kids. Too commercial, too much emphasis on saying "I love you" when it's obligatory rather than when one feels it.

As for these snacks, they wouldn't be allowed in our school. The days of outside food coming in are numbered - not only because of food allergies, but because of parents concerns about the cleanliness of others kitchens, etc.

There was an article yesterday, even, where the HOME LUNCHES of children in a state & federally funded preschool program were reviewed and students were required to take (at no cost so far) a school lunch if their own lunches didn't meet the district guideline for nutrition. Report
many yrsago in teh 30/s in acountry oneroom shool house first thru 4th grades adnvalentinesday was fun teh valentinecalrds looked forwrd to and also giving to others and snacks were soooo good. those days people mostly baked own treats and were not boughten unless someone got a chocolate valentine but those were very very rare. because ofeh depression years. Report
I remember having Valentines Party at school exchange of Valentines Cards and Refreshments brought from home. God Bless You and Have a Wonderful Week. Everyone had a good time. Report
Many schools only allow pre-made products, even when it is made in the classroom. I am 28 and when I was elementary school a parent attempted to cook in the classroom and was allowed to cook, however when it was finished the school only allowed their child to eat it; I doubt they have gotten less restrictive in the last 20 years. I will say had they had us, the students, to help we would have been allowed to enjoy the tasties as well.

That is to say, check to see what is allowed before sending it, as bringing nothing is less embarrassing than for partaking in the treats to not be allowed. Report
We also used to weave a heart-shaped "basket" to hang on our desk - I'd not thought of those in years! I don't think children have as much fun as we used to - and at the same time I feel we received an excellent education despite taking time for parties, PE, music classes and field trips. Report
I went to elementary school in the late 50’s. Our Valentine parties were fun, although kids today might think they were lame and unfair. The party was the last hour of the day. We each got one homemade heart shaped cookie and a carton of milk. Then we played games. Prizes were things like pencils with Valentine designs. Everyone didn't get a prize. If everyone “won” something, we would call them gifts, not prizes. About a minute before the end of the day we put our cards on classmates desks—no mailboxes. The bell rang before we had time to open the envelopes. No one knew how many cards anyone received. Cards for everyone would mean no one is special. Sometimes not getting cards is good. One girl in our class constantly made fun of others, smashed sack lunches, pulled hair, etc. She didn’t care what her teacher or parents said or did. The year she didn’t get any Valentine cards was her wake up call to improve her people skills. It didn’t take long for her to make friends. Report
I wasn't allowed to participate growing up. As an adult, mostly I got things for my kids because I love them - but I get them things all the time, holiday or not. My EX wasn't one to give gifts much and I'm difficult to impossible to shop for anyway. (Not his words; mine. If I want something, either I can afford it and buy it, or I can't afford it and have moved on from wanting it. So asking me "What do you want for _____?" never comes up with anything useful. Secret Santa stuff at work is painful.) Report
We used to decorate paper bags (like lunch bags), not boxes - but that was so much fun! And while I also started elementary school in the early 70s, I don't remember having to make a card for every person (although i probably did) - maybe my schools weren't as aware as Becky's. The thing that bothers me about how Valentine's Day is celebrated at my kids' school is that they are required to bring a card for everyone (that's great), but they aren't supposed to fill in the "to" part - teachers think it takes too long for kids to put the proper cards in the proper bags! I always liked picking out the perfect card for my good friends, so this whole random distribution seems kind of pointless. Report
If two or three parents were willing to help out these items could be prepared in the classroom, as part of the party, which would be allowed. Just bring the packaged ingredients; items needed to prepare the food and a wiliness to help out in the classroom. And if the kids could participate most teachers could create a lesson to tie the activity with their state core making it an even more acceptable activity.
Of course, check with the teacher at least a few days before hand.
I Loved Everything about Valentines Day at school! It was so hard to concentrate as you waited for that last hour of the school day. As far as food allergies at school I don't remember anyone having that problem.Things are so complicated for kids now. Report
Oh my. I remember those young and innocent days. I graduated high school in 1972 so I'm a big older than you, but certainly have those vivid memories of that decorated shoe box and the making-of-the-Valentines Day cards . . . including one for the teacher. gone are those sweet days, unfortunately! Report
I always disliked valentine day at school did not like giving valentine's to kids I did not care or who did not care about me. I'm in my 60's and I still do not like valentine's day, never a day I give much thought to. Report
I know I was just a little kid when I was in grade school back in the 80s, but I don't remember that any of my classmates ever had food allergies, and we were always allowed to bring in homemade treats. There was always a mix of storebought and homemade. Every year, we'd weave together "mailboxes" to hang off our desks, and the fun part was bringing our mailboxes home and seeing all the Valentines. Like a lot of people here, teachers instructed us to bring Valentines for every one of our classmates, and we'd all walk around with our stack of Valentines, stuffing (usually) personalized ones (at least envelopes that had each classmate's name on it) into the mailboxes.

My 5th-grade step-daughter goes to middle school, so I guess they're too old for V-Day activities, but this year, V-Day is also our state's centennial, so they're doing a school-wide, day-long celebration, and parents were asked to donate storebought cupcakes and chocolate chip cookies--cupcakes so each student can have one, and cookies for some sort of "mining activity" they're doing as part of the celebration, since Arizona was built in part on the mining industry. I don't know if they'll eat the cookies afterward of if they're just going to root the chips out . . . Report
We celebrated Valentine's Day in grammar school and well, I have mixed memories. My teachers always tried to make the day fun for everyone. I enjoyed the parties because we'd get a cupcake or the NECCO heart shaped candies with cute sayings !

Unfortunately, the unpleasant memory I have is linked to cards. The popular kids always got tons of cards. Because I wasn't popular, I'd only get a couple of cards from my friends. At some point, my teacher caught on to the fact that some kids got more cards than others and saw how disappointed many of us were as a result. They made a rule that said when you give cards to class, you give one to everybody in the class. Okay, in your homeroom, that could be 25 kids.

Now, these weren't expensive cards. they were the silly little cards you could get in packs for cheap. This way, every child gets all sorts of cards and doesn't feel left out.

I'll say it, I could find Valentine's Day depressing because I did feel left out. Report
We are not allowed anymore to make homemade snacks to bring to school. It must be store bought. But even before that we would not be allowed to make anything with nuts or strawberries anyhow. So, the suggestion in this blog don't help my situation with my children and V-day. Report
This is great in theory, but my child's class doesn't allow home-made treats. Everything must be pre-packaged and from the store. Report
nut allergies Report
Our school doesn't allow any "made at home" foods for parties, but just purchased foods in sealed wrappers. Report
I never enjoyed valentines day as a child. Report
The author dose say to check with the teacher about any food allergies before sending any edible treats. Report
I second WABJEB. When I was in elementary school there were a number of children allergic to peanuts (and some other nuts). Thus, if your school allows you to bring homemade food (some don't), please ask the teacher if any of the children have allergies you should know about. If there is a serious issues, the teacher should know ahead of time. I also tend to mark whether something I make contains a common allergen (nuts, eggs, soy, milk, gluten, etc) so children who are sensitive can make an informed choice. Report
OOooooohhh....I loved making the pretty box to fill with all the love notes from my classmates!! Back in the day...no one gave out candy...just cards!!! Now my youngest is preparing for the big day and he hates it!!! Not sure why, but there is a sweetie pie in his life and I want to get a little box of See's for him to give to her...Um YA....he says...NO WAY MOM!!! Chicken!!!
I don't have any kids..yet..but was surprised/shocked to hear they don't allow valentine's activities in schools anymore because it interferes with classroom time?? Some of my fondest memories are around these special activities in the classroom making school enjoyable AND educational at the same time. There is something said to learning socializing skills too.. Report
These are also awesome rainy-day snack ideas too. Thanks for sharing! Report
The schools in my area do not allow any foods made at home because of the state health code, which only deals with the possibility of the food being contaminated and not if it is actually healthy for the kids to eat, so nearly all the food sent with the kids is prepackaged junk. If two or three parents were willing to help out these items could be prepared in the classroom which would be allowed. And if the kids could participate most teachers could create a lesson and tie the activity to their state core making it an even more acceptable activity. Report
These sound great, you may just have to be cautious with the peanut butter. Report
I remember making those shoeboxes & waiting eagerly to see what cards I would get! The food we ate at our parties were not healthy, it was the typical Valentine's day food. Report
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