In my life before kids, Valentine’s Day meant satiny boxes of truffles, long-stemmed red roses, the skin-flattering glow of candlelight – even the occasional jewel. Now, it means construction paper hearts, glitter spills, Fun Dip, Blow Pops, and handmade love coupons.
Truth is, I wouldn’t have it any other way. What better day to honor the love of a family than Valentine’s Day? Here are 11 free (and almost free) ideas for celebrating the special day with all your loved ones.
1. Post your love. Buy a multicolored pack of Post-It notes, and jot down reasons you love your individual family members. Then post the notes all over the house. If you have a big family, you may want to color code the messages: your spouse’s notes are yellow, your daughter’s pink, your son’s blue, and so on.
2. Together with the kids, create a playlist (or a CD or a mix tape) of all of the songs that have been important in your relationship, both as a couple and as a family.
3. Make hearts or write “I love you” wherever you can – with whipped cream on a slice of pie or atop a mug of cocoa, with Easy Cheese on a cracker. Use heart cookie cutters on toast, sandwiches and slices of cheese.
4. Call your Valentine’s parents to thank them for creating such a wonderful person. Also share with them how they have have created a legacy of love that lives on in their grandchildren. (If this is too mooshy to say out loud, send a card.)
5. Involve the kids with making and sharing a video of your family. Most smartphones have the capability of shooting and editing some pretty impressive videos, especially when combined with simple and inexpensive editing apps. (Your tech-savvy kids may be able to help you with this!) Edit the video with a special song in the background. If this all becomes too complicated, use a site such as animoto.com or slideroll.com to make a simple video slideshow from your favorite family photos.
6. Write down 50 favorite memories of your life together as a couple (or as a family) and share them aloud. Or ask each member of the family to come up with 10 memories and have everyone take a turn sharing from the list.
7. Stash a series of sweet love notes where only the intended recipient will find them – tucked behind his garage door opener, in his shoe, under his pillow, on his windshield. Send a few via text message and Facebook. Do this for your kids, as well as for your mate.
8. Make dinner at home. You can plan an inclusive family dinner, or enlist the kids to help you prepare the meal and then ask them to serve you and your spouse a romantic dinner over candlelight. (My kids love to do this, and they take the task very seriously.)
9. Let the kids help you decorate for the Valentine’s meal. Scatter rose petals, light candles, place the cut flowers, dim the lights.
10. If you opt for a family dinner, prepare a meal that’s fun to share: raclette, fondue, kabobs (kids particularly love anything served up on stick, it seems). For dessert, indulge in anything that can be dipped in chocolate or whipped cream.
11. After dinner, send the kids on a scavenger hunt with a little Valentine’s Day treasure for each of them at the end.
Here’s the master plan: Wear out the kids with these fun family ideas, then tuck them into bed and celebrate – just the two of you.