First there’s Halloween… then Christmas… and just when you think your kids’ bellies have finally detoxed, boom. February 14 rolls around and it’s Valentine’s Day. Well, in recent years there has been a movement among parents and teachers to pivot away from the sugar overload that ruins our kids’ teeth and digestive tracts, and opt for non-candy Valentine’s ideas instead. And as a parent of a very hyper 9-year-old who has many food allergies and chronic GI issues, I personally am a big fan of the switch. Because as it turns out, we can show our kids how much we love them and they can shower their friends and family members with sweetness in the forms of cute pictures, fun toys, and little trinkets. And none of the Valentine’s Day gifts for kids have to actually include a bunch of sticky sugar.

Related: If you’re too exhausted to deal with Valentine’s Day cards, here’s the solution

What types of things can parents buy as candy alternatives for Valentine’s Day?

Let’s be real here. Most of the cute gadgets and sticker crafts and fidget toys that kids bring home on Valentine’s Day aren’t going to be life-long toys that get passed on to the next generation. This is a day to share our love for one another and maybe have your 3rd grader give their friends a cute keychain or a plastic heart ring or a small bottle of bubbles with a note that reads, “My heart bubbles over for you.” You don’t need to break the bank and buy an expensive gift for every child in your kid’s class. Instead, grab some heart erasers and maybe a few sticker sheets, and you’re probably good to go.

Related: 13 Valentine’s Day coloring pages we absolutely love

Skip the sugar this year and try these non-candy Valentine ideas instead.

ooly Heart to Heart Stacking Crayons



24 Heart to Heart Stacking Crayons

Art supplies are always a great idea for classroom treats–and none are more Valentine’s Day appropriate than these 12-piece stackable heart crayons. They’ve got all the colors of the rainbow and then some!

Valentines Day cards 32 count

32-Count Scented Food-Related Valentines Day Cards

OK, so if food isn’t allowed for the Valentine’s Day party at school, how about passing out these adorable Valentines that look yummy and smell delicious? These scratch-and-sniff cards come in all sorts of fun and “sweet” shapes and designs, making them the perfect alternative to candy Valentines.

rainbow reusable drinking straws

6-Pack Reusable Rainbow-Themed Drinking Straws

Reusable drinking straws are always a hit—and they’re better for our planet than disposable ones. Whether they’ve got rainbows or dinosaurs or unicorns on them, stick one of these in each child’s goodie bag and you’ll see lots of smiles.

sticker craft sheet

60 Sheets – Valentines Sticker Crafts

Kids love stickers and kids love crafts. These individual sticker sheets provide a quick craft activity: Make the face of a fox or a llama or even a gnome! The children’s little hands will be busy for a minute or two and they’ll have a cute creation to take home for the fridge.

26 pieces mini stuffed animal plush set

26-Pack Mini Animal Plush Toy Set

Young children tend to love tiny friends (mine certainly do!) so taking home a mini- stuffed animal they can hang from their backpack or keep in their pocket is a super cute non-candy related Valentine’s Day idea. This pack comes with a huge assortment of animals so everyone should get something they love or can trade with friends.

Valentine's Day Mini Notebooks

48-Count Valentines Day Mini-Notepads

How about these sweet little Valentines Day notepads? Kids can write each other letters, play tic-tac-toe, or draw pictures to keep their minds active. My kids love taking notepads when we travel or even just go on a walk to write about all the things they see. An easy add to the Valentine’s Day gift pile that won’t go to waste.

The Berenstain Bears Funny Valentine book

The Berenstain Bears Funny Valentine

Another wonderful candy alternative is a book about Valentine’s Day. This adorable story about The Berenstain Bears also includes two Valentines in the back of the book that the child can cut out and give to a special someone they love.

Other Valentines Day books we adore include “I Love You, Little Pookie” by Sandra Boynton, “Llama, Llama, I Love You” by Anna Dewdney and “Love From The Very Hungry Caterpillar” by Eric Carle.

LOVE tumbler

10oz Melamine and Bamboo Kids' Tumbler – Pillowfort™

Here’s a fun and eco-friendly idea! Rather than filling a plastic bag with goodies that will end up in a landfill, gift them a cup they can reuse instead. This LOVE tumbler is a great choice for  Valentine’s Day and can be filled with pencils, markers, stickers and a fun keychain to make the perfect gift for kids.

12-Pack Play-Doh

Play-Doh Bright Delights 12-Pack

You can’t go wrong with Play-Doh. Provide endless entertainment and spark creativity by gifting kids a container of Play-Doh instead of a sugary pile of candy. Save their teeth and watch their imaginations soar!

Wiki Stix

Wiki Stix

Wiki Stix are bendable, reusable, and non-toxic. And they don’t make a mess! This imaginative toy is a fun candy alternative that provides endless entertainment. Watch your kids and their friends turn their Wiki Stix into all sorts of shapes and images as they engage in creative play and avoid a tummy ache.

Lesser Evil Sweetheart Popcorn

Lesser Evil


Sweetheart Popcorn 18-Count

If you’re skipping candy but still want to offer an edible treat, the white chocolate and strawberry Sweetheart Pop snack bags from Lesser Evil are guaranteed to be a hit. The highly-addictive coconut-oil-tumbled, Himalayan-salt-dusted pink popcorn is perfectly sweet and salty and there’s even a spot to write their Valentine’s name on the bag.

DIY coloring bookmarks

36-Piece DIY Coloring Bookmarks

Keep kids busy and foster their love for reading with these bookmarks that they can color themselves. This pack offers 12 different cartoon animal designs, including tigers, lions, dolphin, dinosaurs, owls and rabbits. Whatever color to make each animal is up to the kids!

metallic glitter markers

TWOHANDS Metallic Glitter Markers

Bright and fun metallic glitter pens? Yes please. (For adults or kids!) If you’re filling goodie bags for your child’s class, you can toss one or two of these fancy pens in each one and you’ll probably be labeled coolest parent ever.

popper fidget toys

24-Pack Pop Fidget Toys

One thing that will usually get kids just as excited as a sugary snack is a fun toy, and fidget toys like these poppers are a top choice these days. This set comes with 24 pieces, so pass them out and your kids’ friends won’t miss the candy at all.

Heart Smiley Stampers Set

24-Pack Heart Smiley Stampers Set

Stamps are another age-appropriate and fun gift idea to offer as an alternative to food this Valentine’s Day. Kids love stamping each other’s hands or adding their stamps to a paper craft. Grab a set like this and you’ll have a stamp for everyone in the class.

Mochi Squishies

28-Pack Mochi Squishy Toy Valentine Gifts

Chances are your kids and their friends love squishy toys, which means this set of 28 Mochi Squishies (each with its own individual red plastic heart case) would be a hit. Each one even comes with a card so your child can write all their friends’ names on them.

heart erasers

42-Pack Mini Heart Erasers

These bright and fun heart erasers are adorable and come in a variety of patterns. Pair them with a cute pencil and a notepad and boom—Valentines Day party gift complete.

Valentines Day pencils

28-Pack Valentines Day Heart Shaped Pencils

Why write with a regular pencil when you can write with a cool heart-shaped one? These Valentine’s Day themed pencils are a great alternative gift if candy and chocolate are a no-go. Every kid needs a pencil!

A version of this story was published December 31, 2022. It has been updated.