“I don’t want my children to equate Valentine’s Day with having a boyfriend or a girlfriend. I want them to create moments of love, whether it’s with family, friends or in a relationship,” says Simona Noce Wright, co-founder of District Motherhued, a community for millennial mothers of color.
“The most important thing for me is to remind families to normalize what healthy relationships and expressions of love look like,” says Angelica Clark Brown, regional resilience coach at MedStar Health and clinical social worker.
You can do this by modeling physical affection, quality time, random acts of kindness and effective communication, which older generations didn’t necessarily do in front of their children, Brown says. “We wouldn’t have certain conversations or be overly affectionate, but I think that’s doing the kids a disservice because they don’t know what healthy relationships look like.”
Instead of (or in addition to) planning a dinner party or buying chocolates and flowers for your partner, consider giving your kids some extra attention this Valentine’s Day. Here are ways to revamp your celebration at home with your kids, whether they’re toddlers, school-aged kids, or young adults.
Wright is a “strong supporter” of buying pajamas for Valentine’s Day, the same way people sometimes coordinate their sleepwear during the winter holidays. “I feel like it sets the tone for the love and tradition that we have for our family,” she says, adding that they also dress up from time to time.
When parents sleep in the living room so that their children have a bedroom
“Now that my boys are growing up, they ask a lot of questions about our wedding day,” says Wright, who has been married for four years. This year, she’ll have them sit down after dinner to have an age-appropriate conversation about “the concept of love” while viewing photos from the couple’s nuptials.
If you have a small family, everyone can make cards for each other, suggests Susan Myrickwilcox, whose company, Yellow Bliss, mails out boxes full of party supplies. If the group is larger, each person can be assigned someone.
Preschoolers can trace Valentine’s Day cards, while older children and adults can write, draw or glue pictures from magazines onto blank cards. After taking about 20 minutes to create the cards, everyone can show or read their cards aloud. “I hope it’s a love affair or something special” about your chosen person, Myrickwilcox says.
“We’re in the tech world, so most kids, even as young as 2, are sort of used to video recordings,” Brown says. Smaller kids can hold up signs, while older kids “can actually curate their own messages to their parents or your loved one,” Brown says. Parents of older children can speak their language by creating a photo collage or TikTok video, she adds.
In a simple game using plastic cups and individually wrapped candies, people can draw sweets and use them to compliment others. The key is to choose candies that create creative lines. “They’ll say a phrase they made out of the candy,” says Myrickwilcox. “For example, ‘You make me feel like a hot tamale’ or ‘I like your kisses,’ then they can eat the chocolate kiss.”
Parents can also hide treats around the house, like an Easter egg hunt, “and kids will have a blast collecting all the different kinds of candy,” says Myrickwilcox. Depending on the type of candy you buy, kids can also string them together to make necklaces.
Everyone can watch a love-themed movie, or adults and children can split up to watch different movies.
Myrickwilcox recommends movies such as “Cinderella” and “The Princess and the Frog” for young children, “The Princess Diaries” and “Little Women” for teenagers, “Valentine’s Day” and “The Vow” for adults, and “Luca” and “Over the Moon” for the whole family.
Either way, don’t forget the popcorn, Valentine’s Day candy, and other snacks.
Create a home restaurant
If you can’t dine out, start a restaurant at home. Getting the kids involved will teach them how to throw a party, and “you also teach etiquette and organization skills,” says Myrickwilcox, who suggests printing or writing out your menu and displaying it in a frame.
Kids can help create the tablescape and “introduce the menu or drink of the day” to the adults, says Wright. Families can also keep it simple with a heart-shaped pizza, delivered or prepared from a kit from the grocery store. “It incorporates an activity where everyone comes together, puts the pizza in it, and waits for it to be ready,” says Wright.
Wright gives her kids boxes of juice at dinnertime while she and her husband whip out champagne flutes on their wedding day. “Kids don’t notice it, and it’s an intimate way for us to acknowledge the love we have between us.”
Myrickwilcox suggests ordering cupcakes from your favorite bakery, but ask for the frosting on the side, so your kids can decorate the cupcakes at home. (Add to the fun by purchasing festive sprinkles and candy for toppings.)
Another option is to assemble an ice cream bar with toppings such as hot fudge, whipped cream, nuts and cherries. (Buy sundae cups or sponge cake shells at the grocery store, suggests Myrickwilcox.) And be sure to have a non-dairy ice cream option for your lactose-intolerant guests.
Instead of an elaborate celebration, Brown suggests planning a “five days of love countdown” centered around Gary Chapman’s five love languages. She says these “smaller, more intimate” activities could include an in-home spa experience to represent physical touch, a scavenger hunt with notes for words of affirmation, cooking a meal for an act of service and a day (or a few hours) without electronics for quality time. On the last day, Valentine’s Day, have a gift exchange.
“These are really about meaningful, personalized gifts, not necessarily extravagant,” says Brown, adding that Pinterest is “every parent’s best friend at some point. … There’s probably someone out there who has an idea for gift for you.
Christina Sturdivant Sani is a freelance writer in Northern Virginia.