Valentine Activities to Honor Our Relationships

We use the week of Valentine’s Day to celebrate the myriad friendships in our classroom communities. We provide an array of activities that help children notice their connections with each other.

Valentine Chant: At circle, we pass around a valentine tin and share our love of each child with the following chant (Tune of “Do You Know the Muffin Man?”):

“______ (Name) is our valentine, our valentine, our valentine. ______ (Name) is our valentine, our valentine, our valentine. ______ . We love them from head to toe!”  We move our bodies while we chant, touching the top of our head (head), hugging ourselves (love) and reaching to our feet (toes).  Some children grin ear to ear with pride as we sing to them.  One child invents an added component, drumming on the heart-shaped tin and a few of us join in. Others decide to pass the box, indicating they prefer not to be the center of attention. But when I offer up the option of whispering the chant or meowing in cat, many who initially weren’t so sure, decide to take a turn. 

Surprise Love Notes: We invite parents to write a surprise love note to their child using a white oil pastel on a piece of watercolor paper. During class, each child reveals the surprise message as they paint over the white, hidden characters, pictures and messages. 

Valentine Guessing Game: We arrange an array of small red or pink items on a tray. Children review all the items on a tray: a red car, a squishy pink ball, a red heart-shaped rock, a ladybug toy…etc. Then we cover the tray with a scarf and each child gets a turn to sneakily remove one item and put it on their lap while keeping it covered. The rest of the group guesses what item is missing. If they’re unsure, we give them a hint. 


Hiking in the Forest! Lower MacLeay Park Field Trip

In preparation for our hike, we encourage families to learn a bit about the wildlife in the area. We share a few short video links and an overview of critters living in Forest Park with the following note: “Let your child know that wildlife live, eat and sleep there, even though there’s much we won’t directly observe on our visit. Seeing video footage of the critters that reside in Forest Park will likely increase children’s interest and enthusiasm for our upcoming trip. If you have time, you may want to watch these short video clips together.”

The class period before our hike, we invite children to consider which of their favorite animals we’ll be sharing the forest with:

As children arrive, we share a few NW animal books and then gather for circle.


We hit the trail and discover mushrooms, worms and mole holes!



This hike is particularly rewarding as it parallels Balch Creek the entire route. Small groups stop along the way to sing a couple of related songs like “Have You Ever Been Fishing?” or “All the Little Ducks” while others take on physical challenges like balancing on tree stumps or sprinting up hill.



Providing magnifying glasses and laminated woodland bingo cards encourages closer exploration and appreciation of our magical, mossy forest. Getting to experience the majesty of natural pockets within our city will help remind us of the importance to “protect the Earth.”


Thanks to all the friends who ventured out!

Ruby Bridges: You Belong Here!


HFP’s social curriculum and emphasis on being friendly and inclusive provides the foundation from which to notice and speak up when things are not kind, friendly or fair. After learning a bit about MLK Jr. and the civil rights movement over the past few class sessions, we introduced the story of Ruby Bridges, the first African-American child to desegregate the all-white Elementary School in New Orleans, Louisiana school in 1960. We looked at pictures of angry white-skinned people who held signs that did not want Ruby to join the school and we checked out pictures of mostly black-skinned people who  held signs in favor of desegregating. We invited parents/adult caregivers to model the way with the morning’s family share prompt: “If you were there when Ruby was walking into the school, what could your sign say to welcome Ruby? ”

Ruby, come play with us!  * We are with you!    Please join us, Ruby! You are an important part of our school. * Ruby, let’s play and make art together. *Bienvenida! Quieres jugar conmigo? (Welcome! Do you want to play with me?) * You belong here! Can’t wait to meet you!

Once in the classroom, we played and discussed the story of Ruby Bridges and invited children to make their own welcoming signs they could later carry in our march.




  Learn More: This 3 minute video about Ruby Bridges might be a good one to share and discuss with your children.

Sharing About Martin Luther King Jr. with Preschoolers

A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual doom.” – Martin Luther King Jr.

As we talk about the important work of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in our classroom,

  • We are careful to name that his ideas and efforts threatened many people at the time. Martin organized, marched and broke unfair laws to try help create fairer practices.
  • We also name that Martin had many friends and followers who agreed with him and took risks alongside him. While Martin is definitely a hero for a peace, he did not act alone. 
  • We invite Parents/Caregivers to consider our appreciations of MLK’s legacy to help set the stage. 


He was brave to stand up for people when others weren’t.

Kevin: When you fight for your own freedoms, you also fight for the freedoms of others.  

Mike: None of us are free if any of us are oppressed.

Cyan: Fighting for justice and equality for everyone.

Alex: He had everyone of them working together– different people.

Des: He spoke with such passion and used his words to have a profound effect on everyone who listened.

Sarah: He led with deep courage to give a fair voice to everyone.

Keith: He spoke of things that were unpopular at the time, but he knew them to be true and right so he spoke anyway!

Katie: Martin Luther King Jr. worked hard for all people to have equal rights.

John: When I went to Highschool at Tigard High, there was only one person of color; now there are bunches!

Miwa: His courage and bravery.

Natalie: His courage.

Family Share Prompt: People come in all shades of beautiful skin colors. Some people are confused and say and do things that are not fair and not kind about people with dark skin. Martin and his friends worked hard to make it more fair for all people. Grown-ups: What’s one thing you appreciate about Martin Luther King?

Josh: Peaceful protest.

Julia: Being beyond brave.

Cindy: Connect me to nonviolent protest and teachings of Gandhi.

Audrey: Inspirational words and guidance breaking through negative expectations.

Jocelyn: Courage, advocacy, justice for all.

David: Preaching love and non-violence in spite of what he faced.

James: His radicalism.

Steph: Ability to build bridges between people.

Nicole: Brave.

Sara: His bravery.


Family Share Prompt: When something is not kind or hurts our feelings, we can say “No” or “Stop.”  When something hurts a group of people or excludes them, we can say “That’s not fair.” Then we can work to change the rules or laws to make them more fair. That’s what Martin Luther King and many, many people did; and many are still doing. Once you’ve read this and understand, please sign your name.

Sometimes it’s hard to know what children are thinking and internalizing. Three parents texted to share about exchanges they had with their children following our classroom play and discussions:

  • H just wanted to play a game where he named his cement mixer Martin Luther King and my police car pushed him. I asked what MLK did and he said “Nothing, he didn’t push back. He used his words.” And now he just picked up rolled up paper and shouted through it “That’s not fair! No! Stop!” Thanks for all you’re teaching our kids!
  • We’re playing cards and T had a king in her hand. She started talking about Martin Luther King and asking me questions. I said something to her and she said “that’s what Kimberly said.” She’s retaining what she’s learning!
  • Just now on our way home from a rainy day hike up Powell Butte, Z saw someone with a sign asking for money and she was processing how that is different from the signs, “Protect the Earth” or “Welcome Ruby Bridges.” She asked me to tell her when they need money (vs. protesting) so she could “give them my coins.” Followed up with, “Do I have enough coins to give them?” 4 is a really sweet age! And exhausting! Thank you both for all your hard work! 

How White Families With Young Children Can Work To Undo Racism: “To dismantle racism, white families have a responsibility to talk to their children about how the value placed on whiteness works to promote the status quo…As we celebrate Martin Luther King Day, we remain accountable to Dr. King’s central message of undoing racism by speaking up about things that matter in our own communities. In this spirit, white families must take responsibility for challenging racial injustice and raise their children to do the same.” Read full article here.

Freedom Camp: HFP Alumni Join Other School-Aged Children to Honor Martin Luther King Jr.

“MOM! That was so fun! Can we do it again next year?” HFP alumni shares her reaction to Freedom Camp as soon as she walks in the door. When her mom lets her know the camp is annual, Wren continues, “How many days in a year? I have to wait THAT long to do it again???”
I had the great pleasure of participating in Freedom Camp — An educational event for  young people ages 5-12 years on the Dr. Martin Luther King Holiday that honors and teaches about the people, events, and music of the Civil Rights Movement, and the efforts for social justice that continue today. The camp is sponsored by Threads of Justice Collective (An informal group of early childhood educators who work together to promote social and cultural justice for all children). 


This year’s focus was voting rights. So after our opening circle learning a bit about the hard-fought history of various disenfranchised groups of  people finally gaining their rights to vote in this country, we gathered into small groups for some hands-on activities, including Theater of the Oppressed (practice interrupting hurtful scenarios), singing civil rights songs (and making up our own verses related to current concerns), and poster-making. We then marched in the neighborhood before returning for cake in celebration of MLK’s birthday. 

It was an educational, interactive, fun and inspiring event for children and adults alike!

Mitra (HFP alumni parent): “How did you feel listening to the stories?”
Thatcher, HFP alumni: “It sounded really unfair. Oh! That would have been a good sign! Fight for Justice! But…Black Lives Matter is more important to me.” (Thatcher talking about the BLM sign he made).

Freedom Camp 2020 from Hawthorne Family Playschool on Vimeo.


To learn more about Freedom Camp for 5-12 year-olds: A one-day crash course in civil rights history: Freedom Camp on MLK Day 2017

To learn about this year’s Don’t Shoot Portland march:Portland groups gather, march in honor of Martin Luther King Jr.