IMG_5572In my family growing up, Valentine’s Day was pretty mellow.

I remember working with my sister to make Valentine cards to bring to school, putting a few conversation hearts in each envelope (after carefully screening what each heart said so that we wouldn’t be giving any boys the wrong idea).  I also remember making elaborate Valentine’s Day mailboxes to bring to school to put on our desks and then everyone would deliver Valentines to everyone else’s mailboxes. Then, on Valentine’s Day morning, we always found our cups at the breakfast table full of candy from our sweet mom. Valentine’s Day was nice. It was sufficient.

I went through my teenage years and twenties dreading Valentine’s Day. It seemed like a horrible holiday that caused a lot more pain than joy as it reminded every unattached girl and woman what she didn’t have. On the few occasions when I did have someone I was dating or interested in around Valentine’s Day, there was plenty of angst trying to figure out what actions or lack of actions on Valentine’s Day might actually mean.

Once I was married, I quickly found that Valentine’s Day angst didn’t go away! Plus I realized that getting flowers and going out to dinner on Valentine’s Day wasn’t all good – the price of flowers in February is crazy and getting a table at a restaurant and finding a babysitter can be way more trouble than it’s worth.

But in the last few years, I’ve learned to really love Valentine’s Day.

While my husband and I do some special couple-oriented things around Valentine’s Day, we’ve decided to focus Valentine’s Day itself, and really all of February, on celebrating FAMILY love, not just romantic love.

Here are some  activities that help make February wonderful for our family:

1. Heart Attack

One of my favorite family activities is the “heart attack” we give each other. Towards the beginning of the month (usually the first Monday of the month), we cut out construction paper hearts (all sizes and colors), write down what we love about a  family member on each heart (the little kids dictate to someone who can write), then stick the completed hearts all over our kitchen cabinets. It’s great to see what everyone comes up with ands we’re all reminded of the love we share every time we’re in the kitchen. Plus it’s an easy and meaningful way to decorate for Valentine’s Day.

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2. Jar of Love

IMG_5571We started a new tradition a couple years ago year that we LOVED (got the idea from one of our great Power of Moms readers – thanks, Brianna!).  We brainstormed a bunch of simple little activities that celebrate the love we have for those around us (examples below), wrote each one on a little slip of paper, and put all the slips in a jar. Starting at the beginning of February, the kids trade off picking a slip of paper from the jar at breakfast and then we do the activity on the paper they pulled out sometime that day. If we draw out an activity that won’t work that day, we draw out a different activity that might work better. Some days, we don’t quite get to doing the activity we chose and that’s okay – we put it back in the jar for later. It’s our goal to get to at least seven activities from the jar during February – but we keep it nice and flexible!

Here’s what we put in our jar:

  • see how many hugs and kisses you can give today
  • “heart attack” someone’s front door
  • take a treat to someone
  • do a “secret service” for someone in your family
  • do something nice for someone outside your family
  • read a story about loving and caring for others
  • pop some popcorn and watch a fun movie that has a love story (Princess Bride is our favorite)
  • make a special Valentine for a school or church teacher
  • give a sincere compliment to someone today
  • write a nice note or email to someone you love who you haven’t seen for a while (see below for one example)

Here’s a Valentine’s letter one of my kids wrote last year on the day we drew “write a nice note to someone you love”:

valentines letter

3. Mommy Dates

During February, I love to take each of my children out for a special little “mommy date.” Since I’ve got a busy schedule and five children, these dates are pretty simple (stuff like picking up a child from school at lunch and going to a favorite fast food place, stopping for ice cream on the way home from a basketball practice, or simply going with me to the grocery store one-on-one and choosing a favorite treat plus the ingredients for a favorite family meal that week).  I try to do Mommy Dates throughout the year and I’m spotty at best.  But during February, I make a real point of ensuring that these special dates happen.

4. Valentine’s Day Breakfast Treats

On Valentine’s Day itself, it’s my tradition to set the table nicely the night before and decorate with some special candies and chocolates for each child (I’ve started keeping heart-shaped containers from year to year, simply refilling them). And I put some of my husband’s favorite treats in his bowl.

We always eat yogurt with granola and berries on top for breakfast (easy, yummy, festive).

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5. Valentine’s Day Dinner 

At dinner on Valentine’s Day, everyone shares something specific that they really love about the person to their left (or right, take your pick!). I like to make a dinner that the family especially loves (one year I did take-and-bake heart shaped pizza which was a big favorite – and so easy!).  I heard of a family that always has a candlelight dinner on Valentine’s Day and I think we’ll try that this year as well.  Candlelight isn’t just for romance – it’s great whenever you want to create a calm and different ambiance for dinner.

6. Valentine’s Notes

Some years, I’ve written a love note to each member of my family and given it to them sometime on Valentine’s Day. In my notes, I’ve written down my current top 10 favorite things about that person.  I love this opportunity to really think about how much I love my children and husband and have shared some beautiful moments with them when I’ve found a quiet moment to share my note with them.

7. “We Love to Be a Family Day”

I love how my Power of Moms partner, April, celebrates this special day in February. We’re going to try it this year. Ideas, instructions and planning templates are found here: A Valentine’s Day Tradition Your Family Will Never Forget.

No matter your circumstances, talents and bandwidth, there are ways you can make February really special as you emphasize the love your family feels for each other and the larger world.  I hope you’ve found some helpful ideas here and please share your ideas below!

QUESTION: What are some of your family’s favorite Valentine’s activities?

CHALLENGE: Do something fun and new to celebrate your family’s love this year for Valentine’s Day

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