Valentine’s Day can be a wonderful opportunity for kids to pamper Mum and Dad. Why not ask your children to host a special Valentine’s Day dinner for you at home? Married couples can enjoy a romantic night in, while single parents can look forward to spending a memorable evening with their kids.

Even if your children are too young to cook the meal itself, they can have fun creating table decorations and simple treats.

Plan an early mealtime for your children, and a later dinner for yourself (and your spouse, if you’re married). Then allow the children to take turns serving as your waiter, waitress, entertainer or photographer as you enjoy your special meal. This can be a fun opportunity for kids to learn about serving others as they perform simple tasks.

For married mums and dads

Celebrating your marriage with your children is a great opportunity to help them understand the importance of allowing you and your spouse time to nurture your relationship. As you make your preparations, share your "love story" with your kids by recounting memories of how you and your spouse first met, your first date, your engagement and the special qualities that attracted you to each other.

Remember that spending Valentine’s Day at home doesn’t mean the whole evening has to be a family affair. Once the whispers and giggles from the kitchen have subsided and the novelty of watching Mum and Dad talking over dinner has waned, a special video or game may be all the incentive needed to entice the kids to another room while Mum and Dad enjoy some private time.

For single parents

If you’re a single parent, this idea can be a wonderful way to sit back, relax and enjoy the showering of love from your kids. You might invite a friend, your parents or even your kids to join you for your meal. Or, for some quiet time to yourself, have a book, movie or your favourite magazine standing ready nearby.

By adopting some of the suggestions below, Valentine’s Day can be a time for you and your children to discuss what love means to you, and to thank God for His blessings of love in your life.

Ideas for your special evening

With a little ingenuity (and a bit of patience), you’ll find many ways that even young children can contribute to this special night. Here are some suggestions to get you started:

Décor and garnishes

  • Frosted glasses: Glasses with frosted rims lend a special touch to your table setting and are fun to prepare. Show your kids how to rub a wedge of lemon, lime or orange around the rim of each glass, then gently dip the rim in a shallow dish of salt or sugar. Use salt for beverages such as tomato juice, and sugar for fruit juices. To add a little extra pizzazz, slice a strawberry down the middle, from mid-section to base, then slide it over the rim of the glass.

  • Ice cubes: Even tiny tots can prepare these safely. For a touch of class, add mint leaves or petals from sweetheart roses. If you have time to spare, try multi-coloured cubes built one layer at a time using water tinted with food colouring.

  • Candles: Let your kids transform a plain pair of candles into Valentine’s Day works of art by decorating each one with foam or shapes cut from thin sheets of wax. Candles decorated with glitter and tied with a ribbon are another simple but elegant option.

  • Napkin rings: Cut these to size from an empty paper towel roll; wrap each ring in tinfoil, then invite your children to decorate to their hearts’ content.

  • Napkins and placemats: For truly unique place-settings, provide paper napkins and placemats for your children to decorate using markers or watercolour paints.

  • Keepsake tablecloth: Purchase a plain tablecloth and invite your children to decorate the edges with fabric markers. While they’re busy with their artwork, ask each child to complete phrases such as, "I know Dad loves Mum because . . ." and "I know Mum loves Dad because . . . ", then record their responses on the tablecloth. Save lots of space – you’ll want to add to it each year!

Easy-to-make treats

  • Fruit smoothies: These are easy for kids to prepare – and they’re delicious. Let your kids choose a fruit and yogurt combination, and blend together to create a unique Valentine’s Day refreshment.

  • Heart-filled fruit salad: Heart-shaped chunks of watermelon, cantaloupe and honeydew melon will add a romantic touch to your fruit salad. These can be prepared by even very young children, using small cookie cutters or even play dough cutters.

  • Chocolate-dipped fruit: Chocolate-dipped strawberries, bananas, pineapple chunks or maraschino cherries (on toothpicks) will add an elegant touch to your table. Keep a close eye on your kids as they make these treats, and hopefully there will be a few left for you to enjoy!

  • Sweets for sweethearts: Heart-shaped chocolates hand-made by your kids are especially appropriate for Valentine’s Day. Children of all ages can help by spooning melted chocolate into heart-shaped chocolate moulds. Or make your own chocolate fudge from scratch, then cut to shape and allow your little chefs to decorate with sprinkles.

  • Avocado or spinach dip: Dips are easy for older kids to fix ‘n mix. Let younger siblings add a romantic touch by cutting heart shapes from bread slices or pita bread using cookie cutters.

Other classy touches

  • The menu: Older children can use their creativity to design a menu and choose a name for your special "restaurant." Younger children can help decorate the menu with drawings, glitter and stickers.

  • Entertainment: Kids will have a blast forming their own "theatre troupe" and performing special skits (such as "How Mum and Dad Met," "How Dad Proposed to Mum " and "Our Funniest Family Moment"). If you have any budding musicians, they’ll have fun choosing and performing a piece of music for their special audience.

  • Say cheese! Don’t forget to designate a photographer to record your special evening. Older kids may be mature enough to use the family camera. For younger children, only lend them your phone if it has a protective case. For a small investment of cash, you can offer a disposable camera that will delight your little one.

© 2008 Focus on the Family (Canada) Association. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

Catherine Wilson

Associate editor at Focus on the Family Canada.

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