Ask an Educator: Valentine’s Day Edition

With Sophia Espinoza

Sophia Espinoza is Canticos’ Director of Learning Design and Efficacy, and she made time for a quick sit-down ahead of Valentine’s Day to answer a few questions about making Valentine’s Day fun, full-of-love, and a good teaching moment, all in one! 

Q: This Valentine’s Day I’d love to focus on gratitude — instead of what we can’t do, or what’s different — are there any kid-appropriate activities I can do with my children to celebrate gratitude?

This is a wonderful idea, in no small part because cultivating gratitude has many benefits, no matter what is going on in the world around us. Grateful people often have stronger relationships, more empathy, and better self-esteem. And gratitude can even help improve mental health!

One kid-friendly way to celebrate gratitude this Valentine’s Day is to have your child/children pick a friend or family member they love, and then share 5 reasons why they are grateful for that person. You can write this down together, or make a card or video to share, but even just the act of stating their reasons out loud is a valuable practice for children.

Q: During the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve all had to change the way we display affection, but with Valentine’s Day coming up, it seems like a good opportunity to teach my kids about different ways to express affection even after the pandemic is over. Any tips?

This is an excellent question! Physical affection between loved ones is a common way to express our love, and is especially central to many Latinx cultures. And science shows physical touch is important to human development. But not all children (and people!) are comfortable with physical touch.

For toddlers, resisting physical affection is often related to their developmental phase– it’s a way of demonstrating their independence and asserting control. But for other children, like some of those on the autism spectrum, it’s more than that: they may have sensory differences that make certain types of touch uncomfortable.

Now is a great time to teach kids about personal space bubbles, and seeking permission before touching others. Simply asking friends and loved ones what kind of affection they’re comfortable with goes a long way toward teaching children about bodily autonomy, consent, and respect for each other’s differences. 

And there are plenty of ways to show affection that don’t necessarily involve hugs or kisses, such as elbow and fist bumps, high-fives, or even a firm squeeze on the shoulder. Sometimes just sharing our feelings aloud in words might be the best way to let others know how much we care.

Q: Do you have any suggestions for fun activities or crafts I can do with my preschool and school-age children that encourage bilingual communication?

Absolutely! Making cards is a classic way for kids to express their affection and appreciation for the people around them each Valentine’s Day and this year doesn’t have to be any different. 

If you’re looking for a chance to get crafty with your kids, we have a fun idea. With a little help, kids can turn cardboard tubes into a sweet, heart-shaped stamp, which is excellent for decorating cards.Check out the printable instructions below!

And regardless of whether you make your own cards or use store-bought, you can help them write a note using both English and Spanish to send as many besitos and kisses to loved ones as possible!

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