Valentine’s Day is supposed to be all about romance and love, but those words tend to take on new shades of meaning when you’re a parent.

Romance may become less about grand gestures and dressing up for fancy dates and more about small, special gestures (like your spouse bringing you your first cup of coffee in bed every morning), instead. And it’s about love. You can’t really equate the love you have for your kids with the love you have for your spouse, but there’s plenty to go around for everyone.

But Valentine’s Day can be problematic, particularly when the kids are young. It’s hard to get a night out to yourself, especially on a night like Valentine’s Day when babysitters and reservations are scarce.

So, how do you celebrate Valentine’s Day as a family? Candlelight dinners and flower bouquets may be out, but we’ve got some other ideas:

Decorate the Whole House in Hearts

Construction paper is cheap, and you can end up occupying an entire afternoon just cutting hearts out and decorating them, then hanging them all over the house with tape or string. (If you don’t like the idea of hanging the hearts all over, you could have each kid decorate their own bedroom in hearts, instead.)

Depending on what you have in your craft cabinet, you can set the entire family up at the kitchen table with safety scissors, glue, glitter, watercolor paints and more to encourage the kids to be their creative best.

Do a Family Valentine’s Day Card Exchange

Valentine’s Day should at least be remembered with a card, right? Well, why not get the kids involved. Again, all it takes is a little bit of colored paper and some pens or crayons (or anything else you happen to think will be useful), and you can all make truly unique expressions of your love for each other.

The adults and older kids can write out their expressions of love and appreciation on their cards, while you can encourage the younger kids to express their affection through a personal drawing, like a self-portrait or a portrait of the whole family. (Those cards will automatically end up treasured mementos, to be sure.)

Have a Valentine’s Day Treasure Hunt

If you hate the idea of celebrating Valentine’s Day without chocolate goodies, why not turn it into a treasure hunt? The kids will have fun and you can take photos or film the shenanigans to turn into a favorite family memory, later.

Tuck a handful of Hershey’s kisses or other small pieces of candy in a few hidden spots (and, if the idea appeals to you, a small toy or stuffed animal for each child) and set the kids loose for a mini-indoor adventure.

Take the Whole Family Out for Dessert

Don’t want to fight the crowd for a seat at a restaurant on Valentine’s Day, but don’t want to stay entirely at home, either? Well, you could do dinner at home and just take the whole family out for a Valentine’s Day dessert.
Winter or not, Indy happens to be home to some of the world’s best ice cream parlors, and the city is no slouch when it comes to other dessert options. You can head out to your favorite place for coffee and pie, or take the kids on a candy-buying spree at your local chocolate store. It’s a sweet thing to do (pun intended) for your loved ones on this special day.

Bake a Special Treat Together

If you’d rather skip the Valentine’s Day crowd entirely but still would like a treat, why not turn baking a Valentine’s Day dessert into a family thing?

If you’re handy in the kitchen and like to bake, you can have the kids help with a recipe from scratch by measuring the chocolate chips, handing you the eggs, stirring the bowl or icing the cupcakes. If you’re not much of a baker or the kids are little, you can use store-bought cookie dough to make cookies and just let your kids decorate them with icing and sprinkles.

Watch a Family-Friendly Love Story

Curling up on the couch with your favorite people and an extra-large bowl of popcorn to watch a movie sounds just about perfect any night of the year, including Valentine’s Day. (This is also a great thing to combine with decorating the house, a candy “treasure” hunt or making dessert together, since it will help the kids wind down before bed.)

Depending on the ages of your kids, some great movie choices for Valentine’s Day include:

  • “Hotel Transylvania,” (2012, Animated)
  • “The Princess Bride,” (1987, Live-action classic)
  • “The Princess and the Frog,” (2009, Animated)
  • “Shrek,” (2001, Animated classic)
  • “Gnomeo and Juliet,” (2011, Animated)
  • “Tangled,” (2010, Animated)

All of these have plenty of laughs and romance to share – albeit often unconventional in nature. Movie night could be just the low-key sort of celebration your family needs if there has been a lot of stress from work or school lately.

Final Thoughts

Once Valentine’s Day is over, don’t forget to schedule an actual date night with your spouse. Get a sitter, put on your favorite outfit and check out one of Indy’s most romantic restaurants where you can spend some time reconnecting as a couple. That’s the key, after all, to keeping the excitement in your relationship alive during these wonderful, loveable (but sometimes tiring) early years with the kids!

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