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Valentine’s Day isn’t just for lovers

While many associate Valentine’s Day with romance, for others, the holiday that has been celebrated for centuries is about more than roses and chocolates and declarations of undying love.

The romantic origins of the holiday have given way to family traditions of gift giving that extend beyond spouses. Valentine’s Day can be a family celebration, a time for parents and children alike to remind each other that they are loved.

“My mom still buys me candy for Valentine’s Day, and I’m 31,” said Becky Stewart of Xenia, Ohio.

Stewart is not alone, as Kettering mom Jennifer Baker has been receiving that familiar two-layer Whitman’s Sampler box from her dad every year for Valentine’s Day for as long as she can remember.

“My mom still sends me Valentine’s Day cards,” said Alexandra Thickel, 24, of Oakwood, Ohio. “It’s nice knowing she is thinking about me.”

Starting a Valentine’s family tradition can be both easy and inexpensive. It can simply be a matter of letting each member know that they are important to you with a gesture or thoughtful surprise.

 

Handmade holiday

While many will hit the stores for Valentine’s Day — as the Greeting Card Association estimates that approximately 150 million greeting cards will be purchased for Valentine’s Day this year in the United States alone — a handmade card can be a heartwarming keepsake.

Young children can create a finger-painted heart for their parents, older children can design their own valentine with markers, construction paper and some glitter. Many online sites such as Familyfun.go.com and nickjr.com offer free printable cards, coloring pages, craft projects and recipes.

The painted, colored or bejeweled Valentine’s Day greetings can be matted and framed later as keepsakes.

Parents can also easily get in on the handmade holiday tradition even if they aren’t particularly crafty. An easy thoughtful idea found on Pinterest is to decorate your child’s door with an assortment of colorful paper hearts. Each heart can highlight something about the child that you love: You are kind ... You are funny ... You are a great dancer ... You are a talented musician ... You are a good big brother.

Tape the hearts on their door while they are sleeping and they will wake up to a door full of love.

 

Homemade holiday

It has been said that the quickest way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, but that can also be true of children.

Even if you are not a master chef, Valentine’s Day treats can be easy to create. A simple pan of brownies or Rice Krispies Treats can be transformed into festive holiday treats with the help of a heart-shaped cookie cutter. Simply cut the pan of cooled dessert treats into hearts and decorate. If you want to get a little fancy, you could put the Rice Krispies Treats on sticks and dip into melted chocolate. Add sprinkles and you have a fancy-looking, easy-to-make Valentine’s surprise that the whole family will enjoy.

The kids might like to be a part of this holiday family tradition from start to finish.

“I always bake a cake or cupcakes for Valentine’s Day and the kids love to help decorate them,” Baker said. “They especially love the big heart cookies.”

That heart-shaped cookie cutter can do double duty as you can use it to cut their sandwich into a heart — especially nice for the kids who enjoy their sandwiches crust-free.

There are also heart-shaped egg and pancake rings and molds if you want to start out the day with a breakfast that says I love you. Banana and strawberry slices can easily be cut into little hearts as well. Other easy Valentine’s Day pancake ideas can be found on www.Auntjemima.com.

 

Working together

A thoughtful gift can make your day, but no one wants to have to prompt their child, or spouse for that matter, to do something nice for them for Valentine’s Day or any other holiday.

That’s where a close family member like Patty Reichert comes in handy. The Centerville, Ohio, grandmother of two has helped instill the holiday gift-giving tradition in her grandchildren.

“I like to make sure they give something to their mom,” she said. “The first year, Colin picked out a little stuffed animal for her. We also like to make cookies or cupcakes and decorate them.”

The importance of giving and generosity is not lost on children according to early childhood curriculum and field specialist Joy Comingore from the Bombeck Family Learning Center, the Early Childhood Education School of the University of Dayton’s School of Education and Allied Professions.

“And the holidays are made to order as far as modeling ways we can give,” Comingore said. “And it also re-emphasizes for us the importance of giving.”

So, whether it’s a handmade card for grandma, a special candy treat tucked into your child’s lunch bag or heart-shaped waffles for the entire family, Valentine’s Day can be a perfect time to let family members know how much they mean to you.

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