Valentine Fun for All Ages

Mid-February has celebrated both fertility and romance for 2000 years, but Valentine’s Day has only been considered a holiday for children in the recent past.  Now many kids learn the traditions of the holiday as early as preschool broadening the scope of the holiday to make ageless fun for everyone.

A decorated shoebox stuffed with humorous cards and a few small candies has been a typical American elementary school experience for the last 50 years.  During that time, busy lives, multiple children and exposure to media have forced an evolution from simple, homemade salutations into store-bought squares printed with Sponge Bob and Strawberry Shortcake.  But there is still room for old-fashioned paper hearts, stickers, lace and glue.

Steve Langhorst, principal of Bierbaum Accelerated School in St. Louis, Mo., says that parents should use discretion in recognizing Valentine’s Day with their children.  Instead of focusing on adult romantic love, they might take this opportunity to reinforce the qualities of friendship and caring in their children.  At school, he likes it best when he sees kids passing out personally created cards with an exchange of kind greetings.

Says Langhorst, “The messages we do encourage revolve around friendship, not love, but still being kind and nice to all.”

So, what about creating a custom card?  They don’t look as fancy, and they aren’t always perfect, but they can be simple to make.  A paper heart makes a happy face with an upside down heart sticker as a perky nose and one right side up for a sweet smile.  Glue on two googly eyes, and it’s a valentine to share. has lots of simple ideas that are easy to make and encourage quality family time that can be squeezed into a busy schedule.  Start in January on the project so that the creation, dedications and signatures happen a few at a time and remain a fun after-dinner activity instead of a rushed obligation.

In addition to exchanging valentine cards, many schools have classroom parties or special snacks to share.  Kady Carroll, a Canadian mother of three who is experienced with treat creativity, suggests dipping marshmallows on craft sticks in melted chocolate and then pink sprinkles.

“Arrange the sticks in a vase of crumpled tissue paper, and offer a bouquet of sweets to the class!” says Carroll.

At home, too, Valentine’s Day can be a special celebration of family love and appreciation.  Start the day off with a red and pink valentine breakfast.  Red food coloring added to milk, oatmeal or scrambled eggs will make your little valentines smile.  Decorate a bowl of pink yogurt with sliced strawberries that look like little red hearts.  For a mid-day surprise, slip secret notes into lunch bags with heart-shaped sandwiches.  At dinner, create a valentine pizza together.  Shape the dough into a heart, and let the kids pile on their favorite toppings.

For a sweeter activity, roll out the dough!  Store bought cookie dough bakes up as well as scratch, and decorating cookies with the kids can brighten up a frosty February weekend.  Pink, white and red frostings can be slathered on heart-shaped cookies and decorated with red hot candies, conversation hearts, fancy frosting shapes, words and candy sprinkles.  Decorate a box for the confections with paper, markers and stickers, and a heart-felt gift is ready to share.

Craft stores, supermarkets and greeting card companies tempt romantics in February with projects, treats and communiqués for all ages.  It is the one time of year when we freely express love and affection, and even children are in search of the perfect way to convey their sweet message.  When asked what kind of valentine the average kid would prefer to receive, 9-year-old Elijah McCarty responds with a blush and a shrug, “I guess it would depend on who it’s from.” That message remains ageless the world over:  It’s about who you fancy.  The rest is just delicious, pretty and fun.

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Create valentine fun all day long and bring the magic of friendship and love into your life:

*Make a treasure hunt with clues written on paper hearts for your valentine to sleuth out.

*Take a tulip, valentine or baked goods to someone who is alone on this day and remind yourself and your kids of the loving spirit this holiday celebrates.

*Bake a heart shaped cake and pile on the frosting.

*Send photo valentines to loved ones who are far away…this might be a great time to make up for belated holiday greetings that just didn’t get done in December!

*Have a candlelight dinner for the entire family and tell stories about how friends and loved ones came to be cherished in your life.

*Write down ways to help others on paper hearts and put them in a jar.  For the weeks following Valentine’s Day, pull out a heart and implement the suggestion:  Clean a playground, visit a nursing home or cook for a local shelter.  Spread the love of the season.

*Celebrate Valentine’s Day all week by dedicating each day to a different family member.  On Johnnie’s day, carry him piggyback downstairs to breakfast and let him choose a special after-school activity.  Suzie might get to choose what the family will have for dinner and plan an outing. Let the kids decide what special things to do for Mom and Dad on their honored days.

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Keep the Love Alive


The kids are bickering, the laundry is piled up and the dog needs to go out. The phone rings, the kitchen timer buzzes and your spouse walks in with a frown after a bad day at work. Sound familiar? What you two need is a good, old-fashioned date — a chance to leave the stresses of daily life behind and rekindle your romance.

Communication can easily break down between two people if they don’t catch up and share their feelings on a regular basis. Making time for a date can provide the focused time that is necessary to connect and nurture the person you hold dear.

Jake and Mary Farrell of Eau Claire, Wis., just celebrated their 42nd anniversary. They attribute the success of their marriage to regularly scheduled date nights that kept their romance alive and their friendship strong. Especially after children came along, they were determined not to view each other as “Mommy and Daddy” and forget that they were best friends first.

Instead, the Farrells explained to their kids, “You exist because we are. You are the culmination of our best efforts,” and off they’d go to strengthen the bond of their love.

Amy Pickens, M.A., of Your Place for Marriage Counseling in Philadelphia, Pa., agrees and goes a step further. She maintains that date nights are important because they offer an opportunity for couples to see each other through fresh eyes. Just as they did in the beginning, each person will put his or her best foot forward and be impressed with the other’s attempts to do the same.

Pickens points out that the positive feelings of love and affection that come from a date night will release “peaceful brain chemicals, including oxytocin, the ‘bonding hormone.’”

“Studies show that loving, nurturing and harmonious relationships are associated with faster recovery from injury and illness, longer life expectancy and a decreased risk of depression and addictions,” explains Pickens. “So date nights are like a vaccine against and a cure for the boredom, stress and conflict between couples.”

The challenge is in making the time for the date. Both people need to make regular date nights a priority. Pickens recommends making one night each week a Date Night, “so that the cumulative effects of time alone are not lost.”

That may sound expensive, but it doesn’t have to be. To cut costs, trade date nights with friends so that neither couple has to pay a sitter. The night doesn’t have to be long, either. Go for walks, play cards at a diner, sit on a blanket under the stars or park like you did when you were dating. In any case, be creative. A drink or dinner out at a favorite restaurant is always fun, but a concert along the river, a tour of a local history museum or a visiting ballet can add variety to your dates.

Alternate who will decide on the activity, and then be enthusiastic about the adventure. If she wants to drive to a winery that winds up being closed, savor the drive. If he wants to take in a ballgame with thousands of screaming college kids, hold his hand. Remember, it’s not about the activity; it’s about your time together.

Be respectful of your partner’s interests. If you know that your spouse truly loathes a particular activity, then avoid it during this time to show how much you cherish your soul mate.

“Any date that violates the values of one or both people in the couple can make time alone a disaster,” warns Pickens.

Also, be sure you have time to talk on your date. A theater performance or a movie are fun activities for Date Night, but make time after the passive activity for conversation and laughter. A late-night decaf at a hip coffee shop or a cocktail at a swanky lounge would cap off the evening with an opportunity to rehash the performances and catch up on the week’s happenings.

No matter what, remember your goal: to keep the romantic fire kindled.

Says Pickens, “the best intention for a date night is to truly savor the deliciousness of being totally and deeply concentrated on each other.”

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