29 January 2009

Photo valentine saves kids from having to sign each card

Jamie from Travel Savvy Mom offers this smart class valentine shortcut:

I'm convinced that for every child that loves making painstakingly handcrafted, one-of-a-kind valentines, there are ten who can barely be prevailed upon to fill in the blanks after "To" and "From". For preschoolers and kindergarteners especially, 20 valentines (plus 2 for the teachers) can represent a daunting mountain of penmanship.

Last year, when I was struggling through what seemed like a bottomless box of valentine cards with my 5-year-old, I wished there were a better way. It turns out, there was.

When the valentines came home later that week, one stood out among the Hello Kitty and Spiderman cards: a photo of one of my son's classmates grinning broadly and holding a handmade sign that read, "Happy Valentine's Day. Love, William."

People would probably still have time to order from Shutterfly for another week or so. (Or, do a quick-and-dirty color print with the home printer. I'm sure they'd look great, but I wouldn't want to spend Shutterfly prices on throwaway valentines. -- Ed.)

Another option: starting now, have your kid sign one or two valentines per day. No daunting mountain of cards, writing practice, good habit-forming, too.

Any more ideas for simplifying the annual class valentine?

More: Best of Parent Hacks: Valentine's Day

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I'm thinking of ordering a book of stickers from moo.com with just my son's picture (well, lots of my son's pictures -- because what fun is it if he doesn't have choices?). I think they'll be great for "signing" thank you cards too (he's only 2.5, but loves making cards for people). $10 for 90 seems like they'll last me a while.


The photo cards from Costco are great for holiday cards, thank you notes (there is room to write a personal message with a fine tip permanent marker if you want), etc. You have to be a member, but you can order online and they are usually ready in an hour or at least within 1 day. $14.99 for 50 and they come with envelopes - http://www.costcophotocenter.com/

That is such a cute idea!

Computer labels-just compose the sweet message and add the name of your child (maybe in a fun font) and slap on the back of your valentines....

The only thing about this hack is that it is yet one more step towards our de-personalizing society. One of my pet peeves is getting Christmas photo cards that are unsigned, with even the envelope being printed on a printer! So I'm just on someone's "direct mail" list. I have about 80 Christmas cards to mail out (and I'm a Mom with a full-time corporate job), but I still sign every one of them. It's just important to me.

I'm with the editor... have your kids sign about 5 per night leading up to Valentine's day. Then it's less daunting and no one's hands get cramped.

I've done this before. You can still have your child sign the backs. The photo is great for kids who can't write and kids who can't read. Although, one girl in the class thought it was FOR my daughter since it had her picture on it.

I got a pack of sheet labels from the office supply store, used my photo editor to create a sheet of 20 pictures (a preset page layout) and cut them with a scissors. If you choose labels that are pre-cut, you can use Word or similar and use the template listed on the package.

We made these last year. http://booksflowers.wordpress.com/2008/02/13/valentine-cards/

It was pretty easy and lots of fun! The trick is to just line up the photo and focus on the hand... if the face is a little out of focus that is okay. Cut a slit with an exacto knife at the top and bottom and slide a sucker in. I suppose this would work with a pencil too.

I agree with Cathy about the de-personalization. My kids have been disappointed that the schools in our area (preschool and elementary) don't let them address each valentine with individual names. It's ironic since Valentine's Day has connotations of being literary and sentimental. It's an opportunity to help our children express themselves through writing (even if rudimentary) and to learn to affirm others in an individual way...instead it gets reduced to a bag of sugar, just like all the other holidays...sigh...

Like HeidiHutch, I immediately thought of the Costco option. My preference would be to do regular prints, which are much cheaper than doing the photo greeting cards. You can also get wallet-sized prints done (they come 4 to a sheet and you cut them apart yourself). The wallets would be on par with the size of a child's Valentine card.

I like the picture idea. For thank you notes and invites I usually have my 4 year old write out a long-ish message and then I scan it in and can shrink it down to whatever size fits on the cards. This way he doesn't have to worry about writing super tiny, yet it still has the personal touch. (He also doesn't get frustrated by starting over after mistakes, since I can just photoshop around those)

Would home-printing them really be all that less than a local photo processor or an online one like Shutterfly once you factor in the astronomical cost of ink cart replacements?

Jamie here, author of this hack. To be clear: the valentines are just regular photo prints, not expensive photo cards.

I'm totally with you on that.

I stand by my hack. You can't make kids want to do this kind of thing. I think it would be good for Thank you cards too (for very young kids), with funny Photoshop speech bubbles.

As a related Valentine's Day tip we are using coloring pages and cards from here


Kids are very proud of their coloring and the fact they create valentines by themselves :)

Thank you for this hack!! My 3 year old daughter just moved into a mew classroom on Monday & we found out they have a Valentine's Day party two days later. There's no way she could have signed 28 cards in time for the party. Thank goodness I remembered reading this hack. I took a bunch of her photos and put them into a Collage in Picasa. I added her name in a textbox on each picture. Picasa sent it to a CVS and her "stickers" were ready in an hour. 15 stickers per 4x6 print at .19 per print? I win! I cut out the pictures and put double sided tape on them. She colored the back of each Valentine, then added a sticker. It was easy enough that her 1 year old brother made them for his class, too (with his picture, of course.)

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