Who says we have to celebrate Valentine’s Day just on the 14th? It’s fun to find creative ways to show our kids we love them — throughout February and all year long:
° Brag a bit. “Let your child overhear you bragging about her to your spouse, friend or relative — but make sure your other child isn’t within earshot!” suggests Carol Weston, author of Girltalk: All The Stuff Your Sister Never Told You (HarperCollins). (It’s also available on Kindle. See the left sidebar…)
° Spend time in the kitchen together. Whether you’re baking Valentine’s cupcakes with gooey pink icing or simply cutting up veggies for a Thursday-night stir-fry, include your child in age-appropriate kitchen tasks. It’s a great time to catch up with him after the school day. Older kids can cut the snow peas or man the stove, with supervision. And kids ages toddler to teen will enjoy helping you spread that icing. Don’t forget to lick the beaters!
° Make Valentines together. A few days before the big day, visit your local crafts store and pick up construction paper, glitter pens, stickers, etc. Then sit down with your child and have some special time together, whether you’re making 30 Valentines for school or a special one for Grandma.
° Say “I’m thinking of you.” Put fresh flowers on your child’s desk or other homework area with a note that says, “I know you had a hard day” or “I’m so proud of you!” suggests Weston.
° Watch a Valentine-themed movie together. “Be My Valentine, Charlie Brown” (available on DVD) is a great one to rent. This classic and much-loved Peanuts story centers on the romantic yearnings of Charlie Brown. As Valentine’s Day approaches, Lucy tries to get Schroeder to give her a card, Sally chases after Linus and poor Charlie Brown dreams of getting just one valentine. Even Snoopy’s mailbox is stuffed with red, heart-shaped cards!
° Go for the unexpected. “I like to surprise my kids with their favorite dessert for no reason at all. I love to see the look on their faces,” says Manhattan Beach, California mom Lina Moy.
° Jazz up your communication. “Send your older child loving emails now and then, complete with bold or colorful letters,” suggests Weston. “Or after a big event, send an email to your child saying, ‘I didn’t want to embarrass you in public after the game, but I was sooo proud of you that I just have to gush: You were awesome out there! Four serves in a row! You’re a *star*!’”
° Make your child the hero. Even uncles can get into the game, says W. Thomas Smith Jr. of Columbia, South Carolina. Smith once took 48 giant football cookies to the locker room after his nephew’s game. “It was a huge hit,” he says. “And Max, my nephew, got the credit ’cause I’m his uncle.”
° Share a special family word or phrase. When my husband was a young boy, his mother would always say “See you in the morning” to him and his brother after she tucked them in at night. Now I say that same phrase to our son every night — even though he’s now 14 and taller than me! It always brings a smile — and warm thoughts of Grandma, too.
° Add a little fun to your child’s lunchbox. “When I was young, my mom used to carve a simple face into the apple she placed in my lunch box. It looked a lot like a jack-o-lantern face,” says Sarah Doyle Lacamoire of Isle of Islay, Scotland. “I know it probably sounds silly, but just the fact that she took the extra time to do that made me feel special — and gave me a good giggle.” To add a Valentine’s twist, carve a heart on the side of a big red apple — complete with Cupid’s arrow, of course!
° End the day with love — and a little silliness. Top off your day with a special goodnight kiss designed just for your child, suggests Susan Newman, Ph.D., author of Little Things Long Remembered: Making Your Children Feel Special Every Day (Crown). “Two pecks on the forehead, one on the nose and one on top of the head, for example, underscores how special your child is to you.”