When I was little, my parents always bought me a box of chocolate on Valentine’s Day. It was a big deal, but not because of the candy (which was pretty abundant in our house most of the time). What I loved about those boxes was the surprise: the initial surprise of getting the box all velvety and glittery and topped with plastic flowers and then the delicious surprise of finding a treasure of treats inside. Sometimes they were all truffles. Sometimes they were individually wrapped in gold foil. Sometimes it was a variety of dried fruit. Honestly, it didn’t matter to me at all what was on the inside of the box. I just loved the thrill of getting them!
So, you can imagine my disappointment this year when I realized that I couldn’t buy Eva a box of chocolates. Chocolate is a bad idea across the board for nut-free kids because so many chocolate candies are either made with allergens (almond extract, peanut oil) or made in factories where allergens are present. The mixed chocolates inside Valentine’s Day boxes are a particular hazard because most contain some sort of chocolate-covered nut bar which means the whole thing is instantly contaminated. *sigh* Allergies can really take the fun out of things.
At first, I seriously considered buying a box, dumping the contents, and making Eva a selection of chocolates using nut-safe ingredients. The problem with this is that Eva hasn’t ever really had chocolate and now I don’t know if I want her to develop a taste for it because she’s too young to know the difference between safe chocolate and allergen chocolate. Therefore, handing her a box of chocolates seemed like a pretty dumb idea.
Then, I realized that I just needed to embrace the nut-free candy possibilities and came up with this cute craft that lets Eva have a little sugar while also introducing her to the joy of Valentine surprises: inside-out candy boxes covered in nut-free Airhead candies! These boxes have candy on the outside (which happily peels right off) while the inside holds a selection of small non-edible keepsakes. We made a few so Eva could give them to her nut-free pals so they didn’t have to miss out either.
Making these is incredibly easy and it’s the best-smelling craft I’ve ever worked on.
(1) Pick up some cheap Valentine’s Day boxes of chocolates and dump the candy (or feed it to your husband like I did). Wipe the insides out and give the outside a quick once-over with a damp paper towel since you’ll be putting the candy right on the box.
(2) Pick up a selection of Airhead candies. If you know which colors you want, you can buy them one by one, but I bought a box of 60 so that I had the whole color spectrum. The great thing about this is that they’re not expensive and they last forever, so it isn’t a problem if you accidentally buy too much.
(3) I started each box by putting down a “sheet” of Airheads and trimming it to the box so I’d have a base. To make a candy sheet, take a piece of parchment paper and put 5-6 Airhead candies on it. Pop it in the microwave and heat it up in ten second intervals until it’s pretty pliable. It’s ok if it starts bubbling a little, but it will crack more easily if you let it get that hot. Once the candies are soft, put another piece of parchment paper on top and use a rolling pin to flatten the candies out. Once the candies have cooled a little, you’ll have a soft piece of fruit-scented candy construction paper to work with. I used this method to make the backgrounds, stripes, and some of the larger shapes.
(4) For smaller shapes, you can cut into the Airhead candies without heating them up first. I just used a pair of kitchen scissors because I wanted that homemade Valentine look, but you could also use small cookie cutters. The nice thing about using the Airhead candies right out of the package is that they’ll give you really thick, deeply colored shapes that make your designs pop.
(5) If you use Airheads that you’ve warmed up a little, they’ll stick right to the box. If your Airheads have cooled or you didn’t warm them, you can wet the backs with a little bit of water and they’ll stick with no problems. I wouldn’t use anything else (frosting, edible glue, etc.) because you don’t want them to be too stuck. Remember: the best part about these boxes is that they’re tasty to munch on when you’re finished!
(6) For the insides, I used some party favors and little trinkets that went with the Valentine’s Day theme. Eva’s box hasn’t been put together yet because I didn’t want her to see it, but I picked up some small erasers, a lip gloss, and some sponge animals for hers.
Voila! Done! Hooray for nut-free Valentine’s Day crafts and hooray for Airheads for being safe for my kid!