I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve always kind of eschewed Valentine’s Day when it comes to kid-friendly celebrations. That one has usually been reserved as a special date night for my husband and me, to be honest. It’s one of the rare occasions when we’re able to dress up, book a meal out somewhere fancy and leave the brood with my parents for a few hours, though we ironically end up talking over candlelight all about them.

As far as token mementos go, I’ve gone the cheap paper Valentines route for three years now. I’ve scanned the aisles for ones adorned with my kids’ favorite cartoon characters, slapped their classmates’ names on them and called it a day.

I was all prepared to do the same this year, but when I picked up my daughter from preschool today, that mindset changed. I buckled her in her car seat and started the car. Then, she said the sweetest words that I immediately rushed home and put in her memory book.

“Mama,” she began. “I know Valentine’s Day is coming up and I have something to say to you.”

A brief pause. “I love you. I love everything about you.”

I got out of the car right there in the parking lot and ran to give her a hug. Mondays can be pretty rough in general and this one was no different. That simple phrase turned it all around.

It also got me thinking that maybe there’s more to this day than simply being a lover’s holiday. What if we spent it freely lavishing love and appreciation on those we hold closest, much like my daughter did to me?

Here are a few ways I thought of to make Valentine’s Day special for even the littlest ones in our lives.

Start with the food.

Let’s face it: kids love to play with their food and it’s even more fun when their food looks different than usual! This Valentine’s Day, try starting the day with heart-shaped pancakes or waffles. Then, slip a few heart-shaped snacks into their lunch. Crispy rice treats work well for this one, as do sandwiches!

Want to make those meals even more special? Include a hand-written note that details something you love about them. From the simple (“I love the way you laugh”) to the more complex (“I love the way you always think about others before yourself”), you can tailor these notes to your child’s age and interests.

Make it a game.

Those hand-written notes above pack a powerful punch when they’re included with your lunches. To take it a step further, consider making lots of little love notes and placing them around the house for your kids to find. You can make it easy and tape all of them to their bedroom or bathroom door for them to find first thing when they wake up.

Or, you can send them on a Valentine’s Day scavenger hunt by placing the notes all around the house and giving them clues on where to find them. Either way, they’ll appreciate the effort and they’ll love opening their notes and reading your words of adoration.

Let them in on the action.

Baking a heart-shaped cake for that night’s dessert? Show your kids you love them (and trust them in the kitchen!) by letting them help out. Depending on their age, you can allow them to do a range of actions from helping stir the batter to measuring out ingredients and pouring them in.

Experts have found that incorporating kids into your meal-making endeavors is beneficial to their growth. From encouraging them to try new foods to introducing a dialogue about healthy choices, it’s a great parenting move that will also thrill even your oldest. Find some fun aprons and clear the counters and don’t be afraid to get a little messy!

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End the day in a sweet way.

What would holiday traditions be without fun, matching pajamas? Don’t think that Christmas is the only time of year when these are seasonally appropriate!

Hop online or go to the store and find a set of family pjs covered in festive hearts or other Valentine’s Day decor. (Remember to grab some for you and your partner while you’re at it.)

After bathtime, don your new attire and send your loved ones off to sweet dreams. Close the day by going around the room and listing things that you love about each other.

Yes, this might be the fifth time today that you’ve done such an activity, but kids can’t hear it enough. Encourage them to share their thoughts and feelings too and remember to record anything especially sentimental so you can go back and reflect on it in years to come.

Make Valentine’s Day every day.

It’s true that Valentine’s Day should be celebrated every day, in theory. We shouldn’t wait for a designated holiday to remind our kids they’re special and that we adore everything about them, from the way they tie their shoes to the way they look before they fall asleep.

However, it’s a special thing to have an entire day dedicated to showcasing this devotion, so let’s use Valentine’s Day as a reason to jumpstart those conversations and carry them throughout the year. That way, when it’s a bleak day in November and the memory of February is long behind us, we’ll still be warm when we think back on those sweet memories that we made, and are still making, all rooted in love.

Featured Photo Courtesy: Bart LaRue via Unsplash

 

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