I am constantly annoyed by how difficult it is these days to find reasonably priced stuff for kids that doesn't have licensed characters or corporate logos stamped all over it.
If my son specifically wants something with a character on it from a movie or show he's particularly fond of, I don't mind letting him have it. For instance, he loves this Wall-E movie poster he got from our local library, and considering that Wall-E was the first film that actually entranced my child with a sensory disorder enough that he was able to sit through the entire movie in a crowded theater with a thundering sound system and an enormous flickering screen without experiencing a Total Sensory Overload Meltdown of Epic Proportions, I was all too happy to frame that scrappy Pixar trash-collector robot and hang him right over my son's bed, Disney logo and all.*
But I really resent the fact that when I'm trying to buy my child, let's say, a pair of shoes, half of the pairs in the boys' section at the shoe store are essentially plastered with ads. I'm happy to let my child enjoy pop culture in moderation, but I don't want my kid to be a walking billboard for mass-produced schlock.
So I am not particularly fond of the chintzy licensed character valentines most kids pass out at school. Yes, I know that a lot of people think Valentine's Day as we know it was essentially invented by Hallmark for the express purpose of selling chintzy cards, but celebrating love on February 14th actually has a storied history dating back to pre-Christian Roman times, when boys used to spend the day going around slapping girls and women they liked with strips of goat hide. (I'm not joking. Read the link.) In medieval times, after the holiday had been named for St. Valentine, lovers used to send one another intricately decorated letters that were sometimes written in code.
People have been celebrating their love for one another, as February's warmer winds thaw the frozen ground, by exchanging handmade notes and gifts for a very long time. And I think the tradition of a handmade Valentine's Day is a much nicer to honor than the more recent tradition of rushing to the 24-hour drugstore the day before the 14th to grab a box of chocolates for the sigOth and a box of printed cartoon ads for the kid to hand out in school.
That's why I had my son handmake the Valentine's Day cards for his preschool class this year. I bought blank cards, a few heart-shaped stamps, and some glittery stickers— all things he could handle easily on his own without much help from me— and let him go wild. They may not be as slick as those mass-produced valentines, but I think they turned out pretty well.
It did take a few hours longer than buying a box of Wall-E valentine cards would have, but he'll remember the fun he had making these, and the pride he took in finishing them, a lot longer than he would have remembered a trip to the store.
*Does anyone besides me find it incredibly ironic, by the way, that in a cross-promotion gambit for a film that is essentially a warning to all humans not to continue destroying the earth with too much cheap mass-produced crap, Disney has produced tons of cheap mass-produced crap? I mean, they passed out plastic digital watches at the premier, for heaven's sake.