It's easy to wonder if Cupid was playing an early April Fools' Day joke by placing the one day most associated with love just weeks after the chaos and financial burden of the holiday season. Between preparing to take the plunge into filing your income taxes and rebounding from stretching your financial holiday dollars, the notion of spending a lot of money and energy on Valentine's Day leaves many parents feeling woozy.
While light-hearted feelings of love are always pleasing, feeling pressured to find yet another perfect gift for all the valentines in your life puts a strain on even the most loving of hearts. Instead of purchasing bouquets of flowers and boxes of candy, test out some fun, creative and inexpensive options this Valentine's Day.For the Kids to Give:
1. Hearts Blowing in the Wind
A valentine windsock made with love is sure to make any cupid proud. To make one, thoroughly rinse out an empty 2-liter bottle and cap. With the cap screwed tightly on, decorate the bottle by gluing on paper filled with loving messages or drawings and attach crepe paper streamers, weather resistant fabric strips, etc., to trail off the large end.
Cut a long, spiral piece of colored paper or affix many tails of varying lengths to your windsock by helping your child poke small holes in the base of the bottle. Using fishing line or festively colored string and yarn, tie the sock tails to the bottle and this valentine will be ready to hang on any tree branch, porch or balcony.
2. Cryptic Messages of Love
The Web site Puzzlemaker.com gives kids the option of creating valentine-themed word searches, crossword puzzles and many other fun games they can give siblings, teachers, coaches and extended family members. Framing the puzzle in a construction paper or craft foam mat creates a unique card your child will be proud to bestow upon his loved ones. (Note: Although this is a child-friendly site, adult supervision when surfing the Internet is always recommended).
3. A Helping Heart
Talk to your children about the importance of thoughtfulness when choosing a gift. Understanding that a gift doesn't necessarily need to be a tangible item they purchase from a store lets kids' creative energies flow. Offering to walk his aunt's dog on Valentine's Day or helping you shop for the family's groceries teaches your child to give straight from his heart.
4. A Collage of Love
It seems we're all cramped for space these days, especially when it comes to the multitude of framed photos of your children. Using various-sized heart-shaped cookie cutters, kids can trace hearts onto school, sports or candid pictures. A variety of shots taken with loved ones, pets or by themselves can be cut and applied to a serving tray, the underside of a glass platter or a flower pot filled with African violets. This valentine looks great on a counter or desk and minimizes the amount of space used.To Give Your Kids:
1. Value Pack of Valentines
Receiving a coupon book to "get out of chores free" is wildly popular among young valentine recipients. The chance to turn in his "Mom Makes Your Bed" or "One Free Hour of TV" coupon gives kids a fun way to make some independent choices while also knowing you gave him a gift from the heart. Make sure to predetermine an expiration date, replacement policy and terms of doubling coupons to avoid conflict with your savvy young "shopper."
2. A Healthy Heart
Tired of giving your kids chocolates and sugary candy? Try cutting out fruit in the shape of hearts or the letters L-O-V-E to serve them Valentine's Day breakfast in bed. Layers of French toast cut with varying-sized heart-shaped cookie cutters and topped with strawberries starts everyone's day with the feeling of love. You'll feel good about starting his Valentine's Day off on a healthy note and your child will appreciate being treated to a heartfelt treat!
3. Looking for Love
Hide clues or messages of love around the house for your family to find throughout the day. You'll start a child's day off with a smile as he pops open the medicine cabinet and finds a simple love note tacked on the toothpaste. Younger kids will enjoy finding a love scroll in their backpack or lunchbox. Squirting mustard onto his sandwich in the shape of a heart, using honey to spell out "Be Mine" on his toast or preparing a meal where the different foods are clues to an overall message will get your family's imagination working.