From our marriage & parenting contributor, Mary Carver.
Do you give your kids gifts for Valentine’s Day? I know for some families, it is a gift-giving occasion; others not so much.
As I’m writing this, somewhere between Christmas and the month of love, I’m surprised to find myself leaning toward the no-gifts-necessary camp. Since I adore giving (and, obviously, getting) presents, especially to my kids, I’m blaming my feelings on the fact that in my house, our family of four has three birthdays in the few weeks surrounding Christmas.
I’m saying it’s a lot of gifting.
And that maybe my four-year-old asked me just this morning, “But on my real birthday [as opposed to the day of her birthday party a week before], you’re going to give me presents, right? I’ll get presents?”
Yes, of course she will. Because tired or not, I love giving presents. You might even say — and you would be right if you did — gifts are my love language. (Words of affirmation are also my love language, so feel free to include a long, detailed note in the card with my present.)
If you aren’t familiar with love languages, it’s a tool created by Gary Chapman and explained in his book, The Five Love Languages.
Chapman proposes that most of us express and receive love best in one of five ways: gifts, words of affirmation, acts of service, touch, and quality time. (To learn more about this or to take a quiz to figure out your love language, click here.)
Since Valentine’s Day is a holiday all about love, it does make sense to make plans with love languages in mind. And, whether you are a virtual Cupid who adores everything red and pink or a cynic who rolls her eyes at “that holiday the card companies made up,” considering love languages when making your Valentine’s Day plans is smart. Because either way, you want your efforts to be worth it!
Right? You want your people to feel loved and for your time and resources to be well spent communicating how much you value them.
How to Find the Best Valentine’s Gifts for Your Kids
If you know your kids’ love language, I’ve got some great, last-minute ideas for you.
This category might seem like the easiest one, but you shouldn’t just grab the fluffiest teddy bear at the gas station on your way home!
Instead, try to remember something they’ve mentioned wanting since Christmas — perhaps something that made you roll your eyes because you don’t need that and we just had Christmas and wait until your birthday! While I definitely use Christmas and Easter as holidays to give some practical gifts, I think it’s fun to give unnecessary, frivolous, fun stuff for Valentine’s Day.
One of my daughters has picked up the habit lately of saying, “My friend has [________]. I love it and I want it!” I’ve tried reminding her that she can admire something without immediately coveting it.
But she’s five, so it’s a hard lesson to learn.
(I’m kidding. This is hard for all of us, isn’t it?!)
Still, if your kids mention things like that, it might be fun to surprise them with their own for Valentine’s Day.
Words of Affirmation
If you have a child who insists on saying, “No, I love you more!” you might have a words kid. Now, I have no scientific data to back this up, but I suspect many words people are like me and, as much as they crave the affirmation, they certainly do not want them said to their face!
Because, hello, awkward!
Instead, write your kids a love letter! If they’re younger — still in the coloring pictures stage of life — draw or color a picture to go with your words. If they’re older, send an email or text. Or make a video of yourself telling them how much and all the reasons why you love them so much.
Whatever medium you use, make it something they can absorb slowly, alone if possible, and keep to re-read or re-watch over and over again.
Acts of Service
My kids love when I help them clean their rooms. But I think they’re a little unusual in that (I remember not wanting my parents to clean my room for fear my favorite books, toys, or — let’s be honest — junk would disappear!). However, since we’ve been working on sharing household work as a family (aka, I’ve been making them do chores), I know their rooms aren’t the only things I could clean as a way to show my love.
I’m pretty sure checking any of their chores off the list around Valentine’s Day would earn me major mom points.
So, depending on which chores your kids detest most or which tasks stress them out, taking something off their plate for the day or the week might be a huge gift to them.
You could also fix their favorite meal, drive them to school if they normally walk, or finally get around to replacing batteries in their toys or hanging frames in their rooms (or whatever to-do has been stuck on your list for months)!
Just give them a hug and kiss, and call it good, right?
Well, maybe not.
For kids who crave physical touch, that’s a great place to start. But what about going a little farther for this occasion? What about…
- Taking an exercise or dance class together
- Trying yoga with a video from the library or on YouTube
- Playing a round of one-on-one basketball on the driveway (or at the gym if it’s too cold)
- Brushing her hair, massaging his shoulders, or holding a thumb wrestling tournament
Lots of physical activities result in friendly, affectionate touches. So break a sweat or get out of your comfort zone, and show your kiddos just how much affection you have for them. (Or turn on Netflix and snuggle on the couch under your warmest blanket — what one of my girls wants every day, not just on Valentine’s Day!)
Most of these ideas involve spending more and different kinds of time with your children.
But perhaps you want to really go all out and plan a date with your kiddo who needs quality time to feel loved.
You could send an official invitation (via letter in his lunchbox or a Post-It on her mirror) to get started. Then dress up, pick them up at the door, and eat at their favorite restaurant.
If you wanted to do more, you could use your time together to make a bucket list of activities to do together.
Or you could take a list of “get to know you” questions and ask (and answer!) a few of those together.
Or play a board game, look through old photos, or challenge them to a round of that video game they’re always talking about.
Whatever it is you do this Valentine’s Day, have fun! No matter what language you speak or what plans you make, they’ll feel cherished and appreciated by the effort you take and the memories you make together.