You might remember your school Valentine's Day celebrations from childhood: the paper-covered shoe-boxes or paper bags to collect Valentines from friends, red cut-out hearts hanging from the ceiling, lots of chocolate and candies and the not-so-occasional hurt feelings of comparing the number and size and senders of the cards you may have received. While most Montessori schools don't celebrate Valentine's Day as a school-stopping holiday, you may find a simple card exchange or love-themed materials available in Practical Life or the Cultural area.
The holiday itself has mysterious origins. Maybe it celebrates the life and sacrifice of an early Christian priest. Maybe it is the appropriation of an older Pagan fertility holiday. You may notice children in Elementary or Middle School Montessori classrooms learning about the history of the celebration or reading the Duke of Orleans' poem to his wife, written from the Tower of London and believed to be the oldest Valentine still in existence.
Whatever the history, Valentine's Day reminds us to stop and take note of the people we love. For families, it can be a sweet opportunity to spend a little more time together. Consider these ideas for a commercial-free Valentine's Day.
1. Make a special meal together. Skip the expensive dinner out and, instead, invite your children into the kitchen to cook with you. Let each family member choose a food they love. Invite your children to set the table, arrange a small bouquet of flowers and write or draw out placards for each member of the family. Even a simple meal can be made memorable by serving it at an elegantly-prepared table.
2. Share a special story-time together. Look for books about parents and their children, like Emma Dodd's Always or Andrew Clements' Because Your Mommy Loves You or Because Your Daddy Loves You and share them with your child. Or bind together a few sheets of paper and write a new family Valentine's Day book with your child. Color pictures of the people in your family that you love, or cut and glue photos of things you love to do together. Read your book together before bedtime.
3. Write your child a letter about the things you love about them. Take the time to craft a careful message: what are you most proud of about your child? What does your child do that makes you smile? How does your child help you to grow? Write them down on a lovely piece of stationary and address the envelope in your best hand. While we may often tell our children we love them, use this holiday as an opportunity to let them know some of the ways in which we do.
4. Have a candlelight breakfast. Slow down your busy morning by turning off the lights and lighting a few candles around the kitchen. Play soft music. Put your phone away and engage in conversation with your child... you'll be amazed at how a change in the lighting can slow down the commotion of your morning and create an opportunity to make eye contact and connection.
5. Ask your child who they'd like to celebrate today. Invite them to name a special friend or family member that they would like to call, video chat or write a letter to, who they may not have the chance to tell they love as often as they'd like.
Valentine's Day doesn't have to be chaotic or expensive. Use this as a chance to slow down, connect and tell the people you love how you feel, out loud, without your phone in your hand, with eye contact and lots of time together. The most important gift you give your child today won't be the chocolate heart or box of candies, but the time and attention that shows them how priceless they are.