Little Buc's Adventures: Check Out These Beautiful Sailor's Valentines

Little Buc

Ahoy, Followers-

Happy Valentine’s Day! 

You are probably looking forward to excanging cards with family members or classmates. 

Today, I’d like to introduce you to a special gift that sailors brought back to their loved ones after long voyages at sea.  This intricate masterpiece was called a Sailor’s Valentine

They were first created between 1830 and 1890.  If you’re thinking that a Sailor’s Valentine was similar to the red and pink cards that you’ll exchange today, think again!  To create a Sailor’s Valentine at sea, you’d need much more than construction paper, markers, and crayons. 

old Sailor's Valentine

First, you’d have to get your hands on a glass-front octagon-shaped box with a lid that opens and closes like a door. Next, you’d want to gather lots and lots of tiny sea shells in various shapes and colors. Finally, you’d need creativity and patience.  Why?  Because you’d be spending endless hours gluing the shells in a colorful, symmetrical pattern.  You might choose to create a complicated focal point in the center of the design.  Perhaps you’d even add a romantic message. Don’t forget, this is done using shells.  Sometimes seeds and berries were added too.

old Sailor's Valentine
old Sailor's Valentine

I don’t know about you, but I would have had a hard time creating a Sailor’s Valentine quite as beautiful as the ones shown here - especially on a rocking ship.  Fortunately, if I had been a sailor in the late 1800s, I wouldn’t have had to go home empty handed – or with a disaster of shells and glue.  At that time, the island of Barbados was a major seaport. It is believed that many of the Sailor’s Valentines were created by women on the island who then sold them to sailors. I guess that makes sense, right?  We often buy cards and gifts that were made by someone else.  Some of the exotic shells in the Sailor’s Valentines created in Barbados may have come from Indonesia or other faraway places.

sailor's valentine
sailor's valentine

If you could make a modern-day Sailor’s Valentine out of recycled materials, what would you use?  Bottle caps?  Scraps of paper? 

If you could make a mathematical Sailor’s Valentine, what manipulatives would you include?  Pattern blocks?  Color tiles?  Unifix cubes? 

Get creative and give it a try!

Feel like keeping your Sailor’s Valentine 2-dimentional?  Cut a piece or centimeter graph paper into an octagon and color in the boxes with crayons and markers.

If you decide to make your own Sailor’s Valentine, please email me photo to  I’d love to see it and share it with other Follow The Voyage – Share The Experience participants.

Wishing you a wonderful Valentine’s Day

Your favorite Valentine,


Little Buc
* Valentine’s Day is the only time that I change my signature from green to red.