BY MAURA AMMENHEUSER
Valentine's Day is in two days. But no pressure! You've figured out how to express your love to your significant other, right?
Assuming you have, maybe turn your attention to your children. They likely view Valentine's Day as another candyfest at school. The holiday often comes with chocolate, candy, or cupcakes for the classroom. The fact that sweet little treats are supposed to symbolize one's strong feelings from the heart is probably secondary to anyone young enough to wear shoes that light up.
Does your family expand the meaning of Valentine's Day beyond romantic love, to include parents expressing love for their children?
In our house, I'll mark the occasion by baking a to-die-for chocolate peanut butter cake. Cake isn't revolutionary. But we don't bake from scratch very often, and this particular recipe's a reliable favorite, so it's an easy way to keep all four of us feeling we've received something out of the ordinary. Besides, it fits in our recession-shrunken budget and the kids feel they're getting something indulgent.
If you want to avoid the dessert-heavy route, though, there are other gifts and activities you can share with kids that don't involve sugar highs.
Tackle a ceramics project together at one of those do-it-yourself pottery places. The bonus: You end up with a plate, mug or photo frame you can use all year.
If your kids enjoy crafts but homemade Valentine's cards are too predictable, ask them to make bookmarks. Arlene and Herbert Erlbach's book, "Valentine's Day Crafts," is aimed at children. It suggests giving the kids red construction paper, lightweight cardboard and a hole punch to create the bookmarks. Cut hearts or other shapes from the paper. Glue them to wide strips of cardboard. Decorate the bookmark with crayons or markers (you can't go wrong with glitter, either), punch a hole in one end and thread yarn or ribbon through the hole to make a tassel. Ta-da!
The folks at SheKnows.com (essentially an online women's magazine) posted a thoughtful article about gift-free Valentine's Day celebrations (see it here).
"There's something about Valentine's Day and poems that goes hand-in-hand," says SheKnows, "and there's something about rhyming and kids that goes hand-in-hand." Hence, challenge your children to write love poems. Get them started by penning a few roses-are-red verses to them yourself, the site says.
SheKnows proposes more lovey fun for families in another post (read that one here): Hiding paper hearts throughout the house. Cut out lots of hearts from construction paper and stash them under pillows, in pockets, on mirrors, etc. Writing messages on them is a plus -- after all, everyone loves love letters, even from Mom!-- but totally optional.
Want to reinforce lessons about giving that you taught your kids during the December holidays? Making a charitable donation taps into children's best impulses. Let your child choose a flock of chicks, ducks or bunnies to buy via Heifer.com; the animals go to a Third-World family who raise them for income. Oxfam's "Unwrapped Gifts" includes things such as trees or meal programs (find the website for that program by clicking here.)
Or click here for The Goods, an online "store" organized by The Huffington Post and Causecast that lets you browse through items or projects identified by more than 100 charities that will help the needy (for example, a 20-year supply of clean drinking water, paid for with a $20 donation).
The Huffington Post suggests many other Valentine's Day gifts and donations that also support a variety of causes, besides those offered by The Goods. Click here for that information.
Finally, send your child a Valentine's Day message to be posted on the Momarama blog! Write a love note, 20 words or less, to post on Feb. 14.
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