While Valentine’s Day is often focused on romance, it’s love that’s really at the core of the holiday. (Check out our feature on explaining the true meaning of Valentine’s Day to kids here.) To make the heartfelt holiday more festive, we gathered a few ways for your kids to celebrate beyond small plush toys or chocolates.
1. MAKE YOUR OWN PAPER
Instead of hoarding red and pink construction paper, make your own paper to give all your Valentine’s Day projects a personal touch. Plus, homemade paper has an irresistible texture that will make your child’s school Valentines a one-of-a-kind success.
Use old newspapers, magazines and last year’s Valentines to make your paper while extolling to your kids the benefits of recycling. All you need is a blender, a bathtub and an old screen or paper-making kit; here’s a clear tutorial.
2. EAT CANDY FOR BREAKFAST
No, this will not an everyday thing, but starting the morning off with this unexpected treat will give them a little boost to put a spring in their step during first period. You’ll become the coolest mom ever by putting candy on your kids’ placemats, break out the red candles (they’re not just for Christmas!), red cups and plates, and sprinkle Valentines confetti around the table for extra sparkle.
3. EAT PANCAKES FOR BREAKFAST, TOO
But not just any pancakes: heart-shaped ones! (This waffle heart maker from Target makes it easy.) Cut a few strawberries in half to make a naturally heart-shaped topping, and use the rest of the strawberries for a delicious drizzle. If you’re feeling especially ambitious, you can whip up red velvet pancakes. Your taste buds will feel the love too.
4. OVERUSE THE HEART-SHAPED COOKIE CUTTER
Cookie cutters (like these from Sur la Table) are not just for cookies and pancakes. Add some TLC to your kids’ lunches by giving them a heart-shaped sandwich, heart-shaped cheese slices, heart-shaped tortilla – whatever you can find that’s malleable enough to craft into a masterpiece. Even if your edges aren’t perfect, the heart-shaped bologna will still make them smile at lunchtime.
5. LACE IT UP
Use all the doilies you like, but we’re talking about shoelaces. Kids who wear uniforms or follow dress codes may not be able to wear that new hot pink sweater to school on Valentine’s Day. But sweater or no sweater, your kids can always deck out their shoelaces.
Something as simple as an inexpensive pair of colorful shoelaces to add instant color to their outfit. This is a great opportunity to teach your kids how to lace up shoes, too. Let your kids decide when (or if) to return to pre-Valentine’s laces. For bonus bling, hang heart charms or beads from the laces.
6. DITCH THE CLASSROOM CANDY
No, we’re not having second thoughts about candy for breakfast, but for something else to staple to their class valentines, here’s one idea: Play-Doh valentines (or an environmentally-friendly alternative like eco-dough). It’s fun, it smells weirdly cool and it lasts more than a few seconds. And you can revive it with water or olive oil if it ever goes stale.
7. MAKE A VALENTINE’S PLAYLIST
Choose some of your favorite love tunes – the cheesier, the better – and make a playlist for any Valentine’s Day driving. We’re thinking Air Supply, Journey and even some ’60s crooners like The Turtles. Whether you enliven Mom’s Taxi Service on the way to soccer practice or blast “My Heart Will Go On” during the morning commute, a little minivan karaoke will make everyone’s day better.
8. MAKE DIY HEART STAMPS
Put a little love into your Valentine’s-themed art with your kiddos with household items (and start with your own paper, remember?). You can use a heart stamp set or make your own heart stamps from a toilet paper roll or a potato. Even your youngest can handle a potato stamp or push red and pink paint around with his fingers. Encourage your kids to draw what family love looks like to them and hang their masterpieces as a reminder to be loving all the year ‘round.
9. RED FOOD COLORING (ALTERNATIVES) FOR THE WIN
A dash of food coloring and inexpensive heart-shaped ice cube trays will give all your Valentine’s Day refreshments more pizzazz. You can also add food coloring to milk and cereal, oatmeal, peanut butter … well, just about anything, for a festive pop of red or pink.
If you’re concerned about the consequences of cochineal or Red #40, you can shell out a little extra cash for a natural food dye that’s safe for your family, or make your own from beets.
10. GIVE LOVE COUPONS
Valentine’s Day cards are nice but generic. And chances are, your kids (and maybe your spouse) aren’t all that interested in overwrought love poetry. So give them something less melodramatic and more meaningful, like personalized coupons. One coupon could be good for a large frozen yogurt, an afternoon of playing a favorite board game or a round of mini-golf on you – whatever will warm your kids’ hearts. Who knows? Maybe you’ll get a not-so-reluctant hug in return.
Would you rather go the traditional route of gifting cards but don’t want to shell out the cash? Download these free, printable Valentine’s Day cards from the State Fair of Texas featuring Big Tex himself.
11. MAKE A PUZZLE
Visit one of the many custom puzzle sites, like Shutterfly, to create a Valentine’s-themed word search or crossword puzzle for the kiddos to keep them occupied while Mommy and Daddy go out for their romantic evening. Or make a game of it and have a contest to see who can find all the words first. Provide pink highlighters if you haven’t had enough pink yet.
Your kids may also want a turn at puzzle making. Help them brainstorm a list of Valentine’s-themed words and use the puzzle generator to put it all together. But once they make one cool puzzle, watch out – you may have created a monster.
12. ROLL THE DICE
If you can’t find a babysitter on the 14th, plan a fun evening with the kids instead for a family date night at home. Raid the game closet and find a few favorites that have a Valentine’s air, like the sugar-filled Candy Land, or modify a classic with a Valentine’s twist.
For example, play Pictionary using answers that fit the theme of “Valentine’s Day” or “Things I Love.” You can even print out your own bingo cards and use candy hearts to mark your spaces.
13. READ FROM YOUR HEART
If your kids are into reading (or if you want them to get into reading), pick out a few Valentine’s-inspired books for bedtime.
Love, Splat, of the popular Splat the Cat series, follows Splat as he tries to woo Kitten on Valentine’s Day.
I Love You, Stinky Face reassures your kiddos that no matter what they do (or how stinky they are), you will always love them.
Somebody Loves You, Mr. Hatch: Your children will learn the importance of being kind and loving to everyone in this heart-warming story.
Valentine’s Day Disaster: Everything goes wrong for Geronimo Stilton in his 23rd adventure, a tale for older elementary children.
The Third Wheel: Your tweens will appreciate a beloved Diary of a Wimpy Kid series.
14. TAKE A BATH
Draw a special bath for the kiddos, complete with pink bubbles and soap (but make sure they know it’s not cotton candy). Anybody can appreciate a good soak. That goes for you, too, Mom – after working so hard to make Valentine’s fun for your family, you deserve a pink bubble bath more than anyone. Visit your nearest Lush store for Valentine-inspired bath bombs, soaps, scrubs and more.
This article was originally published in February 2019.
Image courtesy of the State Fair of Texas