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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Christmas Cupid Takes Aim

You’ve made your list and checked it twice. Aunt Joan is getting slippers, and your brother is getting golf gloves. But the spot next to your sweetheart’s name remains blank. The pressure to find the perfect gift can be overwhelming, but if you tap into your sense of romance and ingenuity, you might find that you have just the thing to elicit a delighted kiss from your sweetie on Christmas morning. Here are some ideas that will help get your creative juices flowing.

Customize Your Affection – Anita Thompson <> , who creates kiln-fired glass jewelry, suggests custom baubles for a tender gift idea.

“If you don’t know her favorite color,” directs Thompson, “choose jewelry that complements the color of her eyes.”

Paintings, pottery or other artisan designs can also be created with your partner’s taste in mind.

Fulfill a Dream – How many times has he said that “someday” he’s going to own a hot Corvette convertible? Make him a king for a weekend and arrange to rent his dream car. Find a miniature model or ornament of it to wrap and tuck under the tree. When he opens it, explain that you plan to zoom away for a weekend of his choice in the wheels he’s always wanted. Avis and Hertz both offer Corvettes in limited cities, but some local, non-chain agencies provide this car, too.  If a fancy sports car isn’t possible in your town, a limo stocked with a bottle of bubbly for a night on the town with you may be just the thing to make him smile.

Enhance Knowledge – Expand your partner’s mind by giving the gift of education. Contact a Spanish tutor and purchase five lessons. Wrap the gift certificate with a beginning Spanish book and a coupon to a local Mexican restaurant. Or plan to learn together. Contact your local dance studio for a beginner’s package. In no time, your one moment of romance will blossom into many opportunities to hold each other close and relive the intimacy of the holidays.

Geocasche Your Love – Give your sweetheart a treasure hunt in the form of a pocket GPS. Visit different points around town and program them into the unit. Purchase small gift cards at each place and tuck them into numbered envelopes that correspond with the numbered points in the GPS. Wrap them all together to slip under the tree.  When your holiday honey successfully tracks down a point, he or she can open an envelope and be treated to another surprise.

Craft Some Coupons – Pick up a package of colorful index cards at your local office supply store and get creative. Draw a picture of the fridge for a free kitchen cleaning, a picnic basket for a free “I’ll cook,” or a pair of feet to suggest a foot rub. Cut tabs across the bottom for six free “I’m sorrys” to really win your love over. Whatever your Christmas Cupid likes, make it into a coupon.

Take Flight – Sweep your love off her feet in an airplane or a hot air balloon.

“Flight has many appeals: freedom, nostalgia, romance, scenery, science,” explains John H. Campbell, Chief Glider Pilot at Mile High Gliding in Boulder, Colo., <>. “Our glider flying provides silence, more viewing area than that available in a typical small airplane and is available to the public with no prior experience, training or physical prowess.”

Airports around the country are home to small companies that will happily participate in your Kris Kringle creativity by offering a flight of fancy for about $200. Look in your local phone book under “aircraft charter, rental or leasing” to find an airplane ride, or search under “balloons – hot air” to silently lift off under a brightly colored orb.

Be Insightful – Show your Mr. or Mrs. Claus that you’ve been listening to those little desires all year. Notice that he’s wanted a new tool belt and give him one filled with the little tools he can’t ever find at his fingertips. Remember that she wished for a deviled-egg plate, water ski gloves or a massage at the local spa.  Small things that are only mentioned one time in passing can seem very significant when wrapped and tucked under the tree. They show that you listened, cared and tried to find a sweet way to please.

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10-12 years.” — Robert Parker 91-93