By Krista Ehert
Valentine's Day is such a fun holiday that often gets overlooked when it comes to entertaining. Short of a romantic dinner and some cute cards from school, it very rarely gets embraced in its full red, white, and sweet, all-over glory. While often unfairly dismissed by scorned adults, Valentine's Day is still enjoyable for most kids. Why not embrace the cute side of this day of love and host a “Young at Heart” party that embraces the holiday through your little ones' eyes?
Since this is such a big day of card giving and receiving, why not send out physical paper invitations? I won't recommend homemade as you will not likely see me showcasing my art skills to anyone outside of my two-year-old. Cute designs are in abundance online and it will be fun for the recipients to receive a festive piece of mail announcing the event. Plan to host on a weekend day around brunch or early afternoon so parents can still take part in evening plans if needed.
Save the rose petals and candles for another time and break out the cheesy, homemade, and store-bought cutesy items. Use white table cloths (plastic for young children) and create a runner out of felt hearts. In lieu of flowers, incorporate cupids, mailboxes, or edible treats to complete the centerpiece. Set a spot for each kid with large paper hearts with their names on them to serve as place cards. Hang paper garlands (homemade or otherwise...I won't judge), inflate heart balloons, and use cheap but festive paper plates, napkins, and cups.
It's a tradition at my house to make homemade rice krispy treats in the shape of hearts each Valentine's Day. They are super easy and usually a crowd-pleaser among kids of all ages. Plan to make these ahead of time so the main focus can be on your craft or the baked goods. For toddlers, stick to PB&J and use cookie cutters to create heart shapes. Elementary to tween ages may prefer pizza, chicken nuggets, or macaroni and cheese. Easy sides are fruit kabobs, a veggie tray, and some crackers. Keep it simple and save your gourmet efforts on a more mature crowd. Use seasonal platters and bowls to keep everything looking fun and festive. The Plan. Gather tons of supplies: Glue, scissors, markers, crayons, stickers, and glitter (if your nerves can handle it), and let the kids make cards to swap. For a toddler party, you may want to do a cute store-bought foam craft in lieu of the homemade cards. For older kids, consider baking homemade treats that can be decorated and then gifted to family or friends. Feed everyone first, then do the activity, and if possible, try to squeeze in a bit of outside play, if the weather cooperates, or free-play time inside.
This is a most important suggestion for the younger ones as parents will not be happy to take home a sugared-up three-year-old: Cute dessert tables are abundant on Pinterest for every holiday and birthday, but they're really not necessary. You can make a “real food” station just as Instagram-worthy with a little creativity.