Some frugalistas might ridicule Valentine's Day and all the pricey gifts marketed along with it, but the holiday is easy to commemorate with little to no out-of-pocket expense. Skip pricey dinners, diamond jewelry, and even the dozen red roses. Instead, opt for a budget approach that involves the entire family. Time and memories are the greatest gifts of all, and here are 20 ideas that can make the holiday memorable.
Kids are easy to please. A handwritten card attached to a small treat like a new book, a few Hot Wheels cars, or a piece of heart-shaped candy tells children their parents are thinking of them. Set out the treasure the night before so they find it in the morning.
Making a heart-shaped cake is easy as pie. Pinterest is brimming with tutorials, but all that's needed is cake mix, a square pan, a circle pan, and icing. Turn this into a family activity for another loving memory.
This game is fun for all ages. Start by cutting out different size hearts and scatter them around the house. Let young children find as many as they can and offer a small token to whomever finds the most. For older children, attach a little love note or joke on the back and be crafty when hiding the cutouts. If several children are playing, assign each a particular color to seek out.
No time in the morning to make a Valentine's Day breakfast? Focus on dinner. Rather than fancy, be creative. A special picnic on the living room floor will delight young and old. Spread a blanket, serve picnic foods, and enjoy family time.
Pick up a bag of conversation-heart candy organize several versions of the game "minute to win it," described in detail on Makoodle. In one game, players have one minute to stack as many hearts as possible. In another, players use chopsticks to see how many candy hearts they can move from one plate to another in 60 seconds. A third game is like candy relay: Set the timer for one minute and use a spoon to transfer hearts from one cup to another. Up the ante by placing the cups across the room from each other.
Organize a special movie night at home. Choose the film and go to Pinterest for free movie-ticket printables. Print one ticket for each family member, affix an invitation, and distribute a few days in advance. Set up a snack bar on movie night with fun options, such as popcorn with toppings like butter, chocolate morsels, sprinkles, or marshmallows, or apple slices topped with caramel, sprinkles, crushed pretzels, or toasted almonds. Provide juice boxes for liquid refreshment.
Mix up a good sugar cookie recipe or pick up premade dough from the supermarket. Roll out the dough and use heart-shaped cookie cutters of various sizes. Once the cookies are baked and cooled, invite the children to decorate them with red, pink, and white icing.
Teach Mama recommends a Valentine's Day version of musical chairs. Start with foam heart cutouts or hearts cut from heavy cardstock, each large enough for little feet to stand on. Jot an activity on the back of each such as: five pushups, hop on one foot 10 times, hug the person to your right, or plank for 10 seconds. When the music stops, each player turns over the heart they landed on and follows the instruction. This is a fun game for one or two children, or even more if entertaining a crowd.
The simple act of volunteering to help others is a huge act of love. Bond as a family and volunteer together. Collect toiletry samples and donate to a homeless shelter, join a family fun walk to raise awareness and funds, or help serve a meal in a local soup kitchen. VolunteerMatch.org is a good source for volunteer opportunities.
Set out pink, red, and purple construction paper cut into hearts of many sizes. Everyone can glue-stick the hearts into different arrangements to look like "heart" animals. Markers or googly eyes can flesh out the critters' eyes, mouths, and whiskers. Take some cues from Crafty Mornings, which shows how easy it is to render a mouse, fish, elephant, bee, and so on.
Outline a heart on a piece of white card stock with masking tape. Give the children red or pink paint and let them cover the entire page -- every last bit of white space. Before the paint dries, remove the masking tape. Voilà: a simple heart painting that will be the stuff of memories.
Send an invitation to each family member for a night of storytelling. Parents can tell stories from their past, perhaps sharing how they met and fell in love. Consider acting out the stories or sharing videos from the family collection. Snacks, of course, help keep things lively.
Tape various size hearts to the inside of a box and have the kids dump in a few small plastic toys like blocks, balls, and animals. Then let them squirt in washable paint in Valentine colors. Tape the box shut tight and let the kids take turns shaking it vigorously. After a few minutes, open the box to reveal painted hearts. Let the hearts dry and string them together for a heart garland. (Clean the toys with warm soapy water.)
Make lunch a special Valentine's Day affair. Instead of packing the usual school lunch or brown-bag lunch, cut a sandwich into a big heart or small heart bites. Ditto for lunchmeat and cheese. Use a small cookie cutter on fruit pieces and skewer them together. Add a special dessert (heart-shaped brownies, anyone?) and a note written from the heart.
DIY Valentine's Day cards or treats, like heart-shaped cookies, are easy to make and can help brighten someone's day. Take a walk around the neighborhood spreading cheer along the way by leaving the goodies with the neighbors.
A Valentine's Day party is easy to do on a budget. Invite a few neighbors and ask everyone to bring a snack to share. Set up a few Valentine's Day games, serve small bites (e.g., heart-shaped fruit skewers), and set out simple crafts for the children.
Every evening in February, after the kids go to bed, write down one thing you love about each on a cut-out heart and tape it to their bedroom door. Soon the doors will be overflowing showcases of your love.