Let’s face it, kids can find Valentine’s Day baffling. An armed, flying baby assaults people, who then fall in love? Everyone in class is exchanging cards conveying vague affection? Once again—as always!—there’s tons of candy around, but we’re not supposed to eat too much?
But while this quasi-holiday’s more romantic aspects may remain a mystery to the younger set, V-Day does provide a great kitchen prompt. And whether the aim is to level up some classroom treats or show friends and relatives some love, these projects offer kids a way to hand out unique, DIY Valentines while they engage the day on their own terms—no mythical arrows required.
Our recipe for black-and-white “King Me Cookies” is an invitation to an edible checkers match—which does sound, appropriately, like a game from the court of Alice in Wonderland’s Queen of Hearts. However, with the addition of simple make-your-own cookie cutters, the basic King Me dough can produce heart shapes or hug/kiss Xs and Os, ready for mix-and-match distribution.
Another project that unleashes young design minds: our recipe for homemade chocolate. This surprisingly simple process provides an opportunity to talk about where chocolate comes from, as cocoa butter and cocoa powder come together with honey and vanilla extract. From there, kids can go semi-literally nuts, throwing in additional creative ingredients and pouring liquid chocolate onto a plate or piece of wax paper to create their own shapes. (Our “Cuckoo for Cocoa” Kitchen Academy box comes loaded with recipes, project ideas, and adventures in all things chocolate, from brownies to molé chili.)
Baker (and Little Sous contributor) Jessie Sheehan recently turned us into hardcore whoopie pie converts, making a case for these creamy riffs on the sandwich cookie as all-conquering classroom treats. While Jessie’s recipe uses peppermint flavoring, do not feel constrained. It’s pretty easy to turn these delights a deep Valentine’s red.
Candy hearts are, of course, the iconic Valentine’s sweet—chalky, yes, but iconic. This year, strangely enough, the world faces a candy hearts shortage, thanks to the demise of Necco. Other candy makers swear they will see us through, but better to take matters into your own hands in this time of crisis: though it requires some time and forethought, you and the team can make your own fully customizable hearts. You’ll need a day of drying time. Most wonderfully, you will have an excuse to write on your food (and maybe buy some cool new gear). Kids will probably enjoy this step in the process most. What will they write? Only one way to find out.
Questions of seasonality and good taste notwithstanding, Valentine’s Day brings us to peak chocolate strawberry. Under ordinary circumstances, we’d be like, no. But if it sparks joy among the juniors this once, why fight it? There’s melting; there’s dipping. As a DIY project, the genre runs from the dead-simple to the downright baroque. And you know there’s someone in your orbit who will devour these—it might even be you.