My daughter’s first-grade teacher requested that a “leprechaun” visit
I organized this Valentine’s Day party for a preschool class of 3-4 year-olds with a friend of mine who is a fantastic party-planning mom. It was simple, inexpensive and fun.
Candy Hearts & Chopsticks Relay
This was my friend’s idea and I’ve used it several times since. She asked a local Japanese restaurant if they would sell her wooden chopsticks sets wrapped in paper (I’ve done this twice now and the manager gave them to me at no charge). Check out this video about how to attach them together with a rubber band.
She set two bowls of candy hearts at one end of the room and two empty bowls at the other end. She divided the class into two teams and lined them up behind the full bowls. One child from each team picked up a candy heart with his chopsticks and carried it to the empty bowl. He brought the chopsticks back to the next child in line, and they took turns until all of the hearts were transferred.
Decorate a Red Bucket with Stickers
Each child received a personalized container to decorate. Party City and Dollar Tree usually have red buckets in stock for $1 or less. Sharpie Oil-Based Paint Markers are great for writing names on plastic. We collected Valentine’s Day stickers into snack-size Ziploc bags, enough so that each child had his own bag. The hardest part was finding stickers that weren’t too girly (although most kids this age still don’t care). But I did find foam monkeys-with-hearts stickers at Hobby Lobby to mix in with the frou-frou hearts.
The kids could do the craft on their own and they had something fun and sturdy to take home (my son still uses his two years later).
Red and/or Heart-Shaped Food
My friend made heart cookies for the children’s snack and I used a heart-shaped cookie cutter on slices of cheese. We also served red grapes and strawberries.
Kevin Henke’s Lilly’s Chocolate Heart is short and adorable and a great excuse to give each child a chocolate heart afterwards.
The teachers heartily approved and my friend and I were relaxed enough to enjoy the time with our sons and their buddies.
These Turkey Centers took place in a first-grade classroom where the children sit at round tables. The kids took their usual seats, did the activity at that table first, and then moved to other tables as spots opened up. This set-up has been requested now by two wonderful, experienced teachers and it works really well.
I tried all kinds of gel paint at home with my own kids first, but opted for Sharpies in class, as one of the reviewers on OT suggested. Kids this age love Sharpies (who could blame them?) and they’re low maintenance, which is always good for a class party. I also brought along suction cup hangers so they could be hung up for instant gratification.
This activity from Family Fun was a big hit. We had a few parent helpers at the party and the mom whom I asked to run this table had fun with it and changed things up as needed.
We put a cranberry, a candy corn, an acorn, a small gourd (fake), and a miniature ear of Indian corn (from the grocery store) in each of 2 fancy crystal cracker dishes. I had some Thanksgiving-themed melanime plates from Pottery Barn Kids that I set at each seat at a table. To start, we told two of the children to pick up one thing at a time from the crystal dish and pass it to their neighbor’s plate. The kids raced, changed directions, passed things smallest to biggest and biggest to smallest and tried it with both the rubberbanded chopsticks and loose chopsticks (I’d left a few pair unconnected).
For instructions on how to attach the chopsticks together, click here. A local Japanese restaurant gave the chopsticks to me for free.
The teacher provided a turkey headband for the children to make, similar to this one. I’d also orderd a foam headband kit from Oriental Trading that we ended up using at a Girl Scouts Daisy meeting instead. I’m not a fan of the foam kits, but if you are, these are cute ones.
The parent helpers and teacher wore drumstick headbands, which I’d ordered for our own Thanksgiving celebration at home.
Pin the Pilgrim Hat on the Turkey
When I spotted this paper game in Target’s Dollar section, I snatched it up and used the self-serve laminator at FedEx Office. I brought my own orange bandana and the kids could choose whether to be blindfolded or not. Every one received a “Happy Thanksgiving” pencil for playing.
Turkey Cookie Decorating
This popular turkey cookie from Pillsbury is perfect as a party treat or decorating activity. None of the moms wanted to bake so we used the round sugar cookies from the Publix bakery. The children put them in Ziploc bags to take home.
Parents brought in Oreo Turkeys, fruit and cheese for the kids to eat at the party.
Michaels has sturdy kraft bags that stand up on their own, even when empty - I love to personalize them and use them for goody bags. Everything fit – the suncatcher, the cookie, pencil and lollipop.
These Winter Centers took place in a first-grade classroom where the children sit at round tables. The kids took their usual seats, did the activity at that table first, and then moved to other tables as spots opened up. This set-up has been requested now by two wonderful, experienced teachers and it works really well.
There are a lot of marshmallow snowmen ideas online. We had the best luck with 2 marshmallows threaded onto a toothpick. Broken stick pretzels for arms, mini M&M’s for eyes and an orange tic-tac for the nose. White squeezable frosting for glue. Hershey’s kiss for the hat.
Making these cuties was a party activity, something for the kids to take home. The snowmen didn’t stand up well, so we stuck them in little boats – snack-size party cups from Party City worked, as did plastic Fiber One Yogurt cups wrapped in tinfoil. A clear candy bag (ziploc works, too – just cut off the zipper) attached with metallic tape kept them secure.
During the party, children ate Krispy Kreme Snowmen, fruit and cheese, all brought in by parent volunteers.
At the teacher’s suggestion, we provided fake snow for the kids to make. To start, we poured a bit of snow powder into their cupped hands and added water. It feels neat and they see the snow expand. Some added blue food coloring, some just played and everyone wanted to take some home in a ziploc bag. Create Your Own! FX Snow from Oriental Trading is a good value – we went through less than 2 packs for 23 students, and we could’ve made do with one pack.
Cotton Ball Games
The kids played a couple of the games found here, plus one more. Supplies included cotton balls, paper-covered straws, cottage cheese containers covered in tinfoil, styrofoam cups and cable ties.
First, each child sat in front of two containers, one full of cotton balls. By sucking through a straw, they transferred the cotton balls from one container to the other, until the second one was full. Then, with an empty container balanced on their heads, they used a plastic spoon to transfer the cotton from the container on the table to the one on their head.
Finally, they played a kind of cotton ball soccer with their straws. I made a ring of styrofoam cups attached with cable ties and placed it in the center of the round table, so each child at the table had an empty cup to blow their cotton balls into. In the center of the ring was a bowl full of snowflake stampers for their goody bags. Cheap and a lot fun.
I recruited another mom, a graphic artist, to help me paint faces. I’d never done it before, so I found simple images of snowmen, penguins and snowflakes and practiced on my daughter (and my arm) at home. I printed out the 3 images that turned out best and the kids chose from those. I invested in a Snazaroo Face Paint Pallet, along with brushes and glitter, and I’m so glad I did. The tiny paintings turned out great, and the kids were lined up to have it done.
Snowman Sand Art
The kids loved this, but I should’ve checked the size of these snowmen sand bottles first – they take a lot of sand! I bought the Sand Assortment from Oriental Trading (a good value if you’ll use all of the colors), along with extra bottles of blue and white sand from Hobby Lobby. Plastic spoons and funnels were key. All in all, an expensive craft for 23 students.
Snowmand-themed loot bags from Dollar Tree held the sand art, marshmallow snowman, snowflaker stamper and baggie of fake snow.
Here’s a fun idea for a picnic-themed party if your child’s class can get outside on their last day of school. (Children will get wet, though, so make sure it’s ok with the teachers first.)
At ages 3 and 4, my own two children could amuse themselves for hours with spray bottles of water out in our backyard. So I bought 16 spray bottles at Dollar Tree and wrote my daughter’s and her classmates’ names on them with Sharpie Oil-Based Paint Pens. Another mom and I collected the foam stickers and adhesive jewels we already had so the kids could decorate their own bottles.
I also picked up a cheap white bedsheet and showed my own kids how to draw simple bug shapes. Using Washable Crayola Markers, we drew colorful bugs all over the sheet. I wrote “Miss Jones’ and Miss Smith’s Class” at the top, and each child’s name somewhere on the sheet. We hung the sheet from a fence with cable-ties, close to where the children would have their picnic.
A few days earlier I’d mixed up homemade bubble solution (6 parts water, 2 parts Dawn Ultra, 3/4 part corn syrup), and I lugged it in a big tub from Target along with giant bubble wands from Learning Express to the party.
After the children ate, they decorated their water bottles, sprayed the sheet (to get rid of the bugs and say goodbye to their preschool class) and played with the beach balls and bubbles.