Valentine’s Month in Genius Tangram: Meet Entrepreneur Esther Howland and Craft Your Own Valentine

December 6, 2021 / DIY & Printable

Genius content refreshes every month! This month, let’s learn about love—in all its forms!—and the Geniuses who’ve helped make Valentine’s Day so sweet.

We’ve compiled limited-time game updates, real-life genius stories, and educator-approved activities into interactive printables, designed to enhance your little kids’ learning. Access this week’s printable by clicking the button below:

Game Update

Check out Osmo Tangram for six Valentine’s-inspired puzzles for kids and new character outfits to unveil. Only available this month!

Genius Spotlight: Esther Howland

It’s hard to imagine Valentine’s Day without cards, but they weren’t always part of the holiday in the US. The tradition began in England, with handwritten notes embellished with gold foil, lace borders, and cut flowers. In 1849, 19-year-old Esther Howland received one of these elaborate cards in the mail. She’d never seen anything like it in Massachusetts!

Determined to make more affordable versions that wouldn’t have to be imported, Esther designed some cards of her own. With help from her father, who owned a stationery store, she ordered papers and images. A group of local ladies helped assemble the cards at Esther’s home. Once completed, she put them up for sale in her father’s store.

Esther’s valentines were a hit and soon started being sold all around the country. In the 1870s, Esther and her “New England Valentine Company” opened up a factory to mass-produce her designs. For decades, Esther’s were the most popular Valentine’s Day cards around; Hallmark wouldn’t sell its first Valentine card until 1913, after Esther retired.

Today, 145 million Valentine cards are sent in the US each year. They’ve come a long way since Esther’s earliest versions, but the special feeling of receiving (and giving!) a love note is still the same.

Real-World Activity: Craft Your Own Valentine

Try this educator-approved activity at home. This week’s printable (button above) has instructions with photos!

Layers of doilies, scrap images, and paper cuttings gave Esther’s cards a special look and feel. Make your own Esther Howland-inspired valentines using these materials:

  • Scissors
  • Glue or tape
  • Small piece of cardboard (from cereal or shipping box)
  • Piece of paper, photo, or magazine clipping
  • 3D bedazzling materials: ribbon, buttons, beads, stickers, etc.


  1. Cut cardboard into a small rectangle, about 4”x6”.
  2. Create a fun-shaped “window” in the middle of your cardboard by folding it in half, then cutting from the folded edge. Try to create a heart!
  3. Bedazzle your cardboard using tape/glue and your 3D materials.
  4. Once that’s dry, tape/glue a “background” image behind it (like a photo, magazine clipping, or piece of paper). You’ll be able to see it through the cut-out window!
  5. Give your Valentine to a family member or friend that you love having in your life.