Emily Buckley, editor in chief

AT FIRST THOUGHT, Valentine’s Day may be considered a romantic holiday, intended for couples to express their love for one another, but it is also a wonderful opportunity for parents and families to share the love all around. Here are few ideas to make the holiday meaningful for the whole family.

HEART SHAPED MEALS

Serve your family a love-themed meal. Heart-shaped pancakes or heart-shaped pizza are both fun and easy. You could also cut toast with a heart-shaped cookie cutter and cover it with cream cheese topped with strawberry or raspberry jam, eat red foods like spaghetti, or wet the rims of glasses or plastic cups and then dip them into pink or red sugar before filling the cups with sparkling apple juice or pink milk and eat by candlelight to make the meal fancy. Involve your kids with the food prep for extra time making memories or make it a surprise!

HEART ATTACK

Decorate your children’s bedroom doors with hearts with compliments written on them or decorate the front door so they are surprised when they arrive home from school.

PARENT-CHILD DATE NIGHTS

Many people go on a date with their significant other to celebrate Valentine’s Day, but maybe you could take one of your children on a date instead. If you have multiple children, each parent could pair off with a child or take turns with different kids throughout Valentine’s week or month, so all the kids get to participate. Spending quality time together is a wonderful way to show your kids you love them and to keep communication lines open.

STAY HOME

If going out isn’t right for you, set aside time to cuddle up at home instead. Make popcorn, pick up some favorite snacks, put on cozy p.js., and watch a favorite movie, play games, or read stories together. To make the night extra special for Valentine’s Day, add red sprinkles or M&Ms to the popcorn and choose movies or books that have a love theme.

LOVE NOTES

Slip a heart-shaped note into your child’s lunch box or under their pillow. You could also draw a large heart on the bathroom mirror at their height with a dry erase marker. Write “I love …” with an arrow pointing to the center of the heart shape. When your child looks in the mirror his or her face will be inside the heart!

CRAFT TIME

Many busy parents don’t have or make time to sit down and create, cut, glue, paint, and glitter with their kids, but kids love it when parents get messy with them. Pull out the art supplies and spend time creating valentines together. Focus on the moment and don’t worry about the mess until it’s time to clean up (together!).

SHARE THE LOVE

Bake some Valentine’s Day-themed cookies together to share with someone you love or who may be lonely. You could also visit a local nursing home and hand out flowers or valentines to the residents.

HIDE-AND-SEEK HEARTS

A favorite and very simple game for toddlers and young elementary children is to cut out paper hearts and hide them around the house for your kids to find. Whoever finds the most wins a prize such as a small toy, treat, or book. Have enough prizes so everyone can have a turn being the winner.

TELL THEM YOU LOVE THEM

The simplest, and possibly most meaningful way, to show others you care is to tell them. Go around the table at breakfast or dinner and have each family member state one reason why they love the others. Model the appropriate way to give and receive a compliment or expression of love, so your kids will learn to be sincere and gracious.