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Make Valentine's Day Special for the Whole Family

Kristy in Waltham, MA
Jan. 21, 2013

Ideas for fun and family-friendly Valentine's Day plans.

While February 14thmay bring up visions of a romantic dinner date and flowers with a significant other, parents know this holiday can be about the entire family. It's the perfect opportunity to enjoy time together and show how much you love each other.

However, it can be difficult to come up with activities that everyone will enjoy. For creative ways to celebrate Valentine's Day, we turned to the experts: moms!

Say "I Love You" with a Delicious Meal

  • Whip up a Valentine's Day breakfast: A festive way to get the family into the Valentine's Day spirit is with food. Jennifer Wilson of San Jose, California makes heart-shaped pancakes for her husband and their three kids by pouring batter into a large, metal heart-shaped cookie cutter. She tops them with strawberries and whipped cream. "The kids love it when I go a step further and add a face on the heart with blueberry eyes, a strawberry nose and a whipped cream smile! Conversation hearts would make a cute face, too."

    A similarly-themed breakfast is also a Valentine's ritual at the Morris household in Rockville, Maryland. Mom, Amanda, starts the family's day with a heart-shaped fruit plate, heart-shaped toast topped with raspberry jam and a glass of strawberry milk.

  • Send love to school (or work): For kids (and spouses) who take their lunches, cutting sandwiches into a heart or an X and O is a fun way to let them know you're thinking of them. April Green of Beaverton, Oregon sends her brown baggers off with rice crispy treats (tinted pink, of course) cut into heart shapes. She tops them with smaller chocolate hearts and packs a box of conversation hearts for the kids to share with their lunch buddies. "My youngest isn't old enough for school, but I still make her one too so she doesn't feel left out."

  • Make dinner special: Many families use dinner as an important part of their Valentine's Day. Some families dress up and eat out at a favorite restaurant, but the majority of the moms we talked to prefer to celebrate with their family at home. Jessica Geigle from Raleigh, North Carolina, is a mom of four. "With school, soccer and all their other activities," Jessica says, "I need a fast, yet fun, option." Her Valentine's dinner choice is fondue: it's something all six of them can enjoy before settling in for a movie. Plus, you don't have to worry about picky eaters because everyone can dip something different.

  • Create make-your-own pizzas: In Houston, Texas, the Garcia family always makes individual, heart-shaped pizzas for their Valentine's Day dinner. Mom Mary, says "everyone adds their own toppings: first to the regular pizza dough ones and then to the cookie dough dessert ones." The make-your-own pizzas are such a hit with the kids, they often request it for their birthday meal.

  • Give sweets to your sweethearts: Other fun food ideas include serving raspberry-cranberry juice in wine glasses, frosted heart shaped sugar cookies with fun messages on top, chocolate-dipped strawberries, bananas or marshmallows and red velvet cupcakes topped with conversation candy hearts or Hershey kisses.

Spread the Love by Caring for Others

  • Deliver holiday treats to the needy: Valentine's Day is a time for spreading love, so it's a great opportunity for families to reach out to those who could use a little extra attention. For the last five years, Emily Carter and her three kids have spent Valentine's Day delivering a variety of heart-shaped cookies, brownies and rice crispy treats to local Tulsa, Oklahoma shelters and assisted living facilities. Later, her husband brings home Chinese food and they go around the table and say something nice about each family member.

  • Care for man's best friend: Mary Walker makes sure her family doesn't forget about all the four-legged friends who need a little love. The Walker family delivers bags of pet food (and other items) to the area's pet shelters. Mary calls the Aurora, Colorado shelters a few days ahead and inquires about their needs, from cat litter to toys to food, to make sure they have a purr-fect Valentine's Day. Walker said they also "foster animals when the need arises," which her kids really enjoy.

  • Volunteer your time: Other ways to reach out and share the Valentine's Day spirit include delivering flowers (or treats) to your children's teachers, elderly neighbors or the volunteers at local food banks. Head to children's hospitals or nursing homes and see if they can use any volunteers to help make cards or crafts.

Stay Entertained

  • Host a movie night: Grab the caramel-covered popcorn for a sweet treat and snuggle up on the couch with the whole family. Watch family-friendly Valentine's Day movies like "Lady and the Tramp", "Be My Valentine, Charlie Brown", "The Love Bug" or "Stardust".

  • Glide around: Whether your family prefers skating on ice or on hardwood floors in a roller rink, open skates at your local rink can be a fun and active way to spend the evening. Dance along to the music, laugh and enjoy each other's company. And if you're lucky enough to live some where with an outdoor ice skating rink, take advantage! There's nothing more romantic than bundling up and holding hands as you skate on the ice. And if you're lucky, you and your sweetheart may just be able to steal away for a quick, romantic trip around the rink.

  • Pack a picnic: If you live in a warmer climate and you're playing hooky from work or school, pack a picnic with everyone' favorite snacks and grab a Frisbee for a fun-filled day at the park. End the afternoon with a trip to the ice cream shop or your favorite cafe for a sweet treat.

Years down the road, it's not the treats the kids will remember, but the rituals and time spent with their families. Build traditions now to create memories that will last a life time.

Kristy Stevens-Young is a freelance writer in Seattle. Her work can be found here.

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