The origin of Valentine’s Day dates back to the days of the Roman Empire, but in 18th century England its popularity grew as an occasion to express love for another through the giving of flowers, sweets and greeting cards.

Although today’s commercialized Valentine’s Day activities bear little resemblance to its historical beginnings, families can celebrate the occasion with activities that go back to its earliest roots. With a little planning and minimal expense, kids and parents can show their love for one another in meaningful ways.

Plan a Family Meal – Nothing says “I Love You” quite like preparing a satisfying meal or sweet treat. Regardless of your kids’ ages, they can assist with the planning and preparation of a special Valentine’s Day dinner. Plan a trip to the grocery and let the kids pick out the special items they want to prepare. Maybe it’s something easy like spaghetti and meatballs or something more ambitious. The key is to give each child a task that he can manage and take pride in accomplishing. Add in a fresh salad and engage the whole family in chopping and mixing the ingredients.

Make a Sweet Treat – We can’t celebrate properly without a tasty dessert to please the palate. One fun and simple idea is to make chocolate mints by melting semi-sweet chocolate chips in a saucepan and adding a teaspoon of peppermint extract (or more according to your taste). Drizzle small amounts of the warm liquid onto wax paper and allow them to cool, and you’ll have your own version of thin mints. If you’re looking for a low-calorie, low-sugar option, chia seed pudding requires only two tablespoons of chia seeds for every half cup of milk (or milk alternative). You can play around with the measurements to find the consistency you like best. Let it sit for a couple of hours or, better still, overnight. Once it’s set, just add your favorite fruit, drizzle with honey or throw in a few chocolate chips or other mix-ins. It’s that simple.

Make Your Own Valentine’s Cards – Making your own Valentine’s cards is a time-tested activity for good reason. Putting your own heart and soul into each card and hand-written message creates a keepsake that parents can cherish for years to come. You can use old standbys like construction paper, markers and glue. Or since the holidays have just passed, maybe you can repurpose some beautiful papers or ribbons and trim those into heart shapes or other images that evoke loving thoughts. The options are limitless.

The Extend-A-Care YMCA provides safe, enriching and educational programs for children at seven area preschools and more than 60 area elementary schools. For more information about Extend-A-Care YMCA programs visit

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