by Alyssa Chirco
Valentine’s Day may be about passion and romance for some, but for parents, weekend getaways and romantic dinners for two are rarely on the menu. No matter how you celebrate with your significant other, be sure to embrace the fun that you can have with your kids on this special day too.
1. Get a sweet start. Show your special sweethearts how much you care by preparing a Valentine’s Day breakfast. Use food coloring or berry juice to dye pancake or waffle batter pink, and then top your fluffy creations with sliced strawberries and whipped cream. Bonus points if you use cookie cutters to make the waffles or pancakes in the shape of hearts.
2. Wear your heart on your sleeve (or your shirt). If you have a little girl who loves pink, this is the day for her to shine. Help her shop for a special Valentine’s Day outfit, and accessorize with heart-themed jewelry and hair bows. Not into cutesy and pink? Buy plain t-shirts and bottles of fabric paint at the local craft store and let your kids design their own Valentine’s Day fashions.
3. Make handmade valentines. Handmade valentines may sound complicated, but with the right materials, they can be easy to make. Cut hearts out of colored construction paper and let your kids decorate them with stickers, glitter and candy conversation hearts. Short on time? Use this method of decorating to turn store bought cards into handmade valentines too.
4. Spread the love. In addition to giving your valentines to friends and family, spread the love a little further by delivering some of the cards to a local nursing home or children’s hospital. Take your children with you so they can see how much the simple gesture means to others.
5. Write letters of appreciation. Take the traditional Valentine’s Day card one step further by sitting down at the table with your kids and writing letters of appreciation to the important people in your lives. Grandparents, teachers and long-distance relatives will all enjoy hearing how much your family cares.
6. Get heart healthy. February is American Heart Month, so use Valentine’s Day as an opportunity to educate your kids about the importance of exercising for a healthy heart. Plan an annual family walk or bike ride, or crank up the love songs and get your hearts pumping with a Valentine’s Day dance party.
7. Decorate your home. You decorate for Halloween and Christmas, so why not Valentine’s Day? Make the holiday fun and festive by purchasing inexpensive decorations like streamers, balloons, silk roses and heart-themed tablecloths at the dollar store. Invite your kids to help you deck the halls of your home with Valentine’s Day cheer.
8. Plan a kid-friendly party. Now that the house is decorated, invite a few of your children’s friends (or just their stuffed animals) to a party. Find free printable templates for games like Valentine’s Bingo or Tic-Tac-Toe online. Decorate cupcakes or heart-shaped cookies with pink frosting and sprinkles. Make guests feel special by serving a sparkling pink punch made of equal parts pink lemonade and strawberry-flavored sparkling water in plastic champagne flutes.
9. Make chocolate-covered strawberries. Even kids appreciate this classic Valentine’s Day treat. And if you buy a container of microwavable dipping chocolate, it’s one they can (almost) make without help. Dip strawberries into the melted chocolate, and then set them on wax paper to harden. Wrap up these sweet treats to give as a gift, or – even better – enjoy them yourselves.
10. Go on a scavenger hunt. Create a Valentine’s Day scavenger hunt for the whole family by writing clues on paper hearts and hiding them all over your home. Each clue should lead participants to the next and, finally, to a special gift or message at the end.
11. Encourage a love of reading. A book like Sam McBratney’s Guess How Much I Love You is perfect to read aloud on Valentine’s Day. Or introduce your family to Robert Sabuda’s Saint Valentine, which tells the story of the ancient Roman priest and physician for whom Valentine’s Day is thought to be named.
12. Commit Random Acts of Kindness. Did you know that Valentine’s Day falls during Random Acts of Kindness Week (February 12-18)? Spend February 14th performing kind gestures in your community. Smile at everyone you see. Deliver flowers to an elderly neighbor. Challenge your kids to see who can commit the most acts of kindness throughout the course of the day.
13. Enjoy a Family Date Night. Skip the reservation for two and take the whole family out for a night on the town instead. Get dressed up in nice clothes and dine at a restaurant you all enjoy. End the evening with a horse-drawn carriage ride or a trip to an outdoor ice rink to skate together under the stars.
14. Say “I love you.” How often do you say those three simple words out loud? No matter how else you choose to celebrate Valentine’s Day, there’s no better way (or day) to let your children know how just how special you think they are.
Alyssa Chirco writes about parenting and family life for publications throughout North America. Making chocolate-covered strawberries with her kids is her favorite way to celebrate Valentine’s Day.