How to Make Valentine's Day a Family Occasion

In the UK we tend to associate Valentine's Day solely with romantic love, but I'm led to believe that our Yank and Antipodean cousins treat 14th February rather differently, seeing it more as a celebration of love in general than a couples-only fiesta.  How wonderful!  It's always good to feel loved, but few of us remember to tell others how precious they are.  I'm not sure a customary "'Bye, love you" shouted over your shoulder as you go out the door counts!

Finding time to appreciate each other and to tell people how much, and why, you love them every day is tough.  We're all busy, and it can easily slip off your mental to do list, so this weekend is the ideal time to prioritise celebrating and creating more love in your family.  As PM Hugh Grant told us categorically in Love Actually, love really is all around.  We just need to take a moment to notice it, share it and appreciate it.  Let's celebrate love, whatever it means to us, and whoever it's shared with, this weekend.  Buy the dog a special treat, offer to wash your neighbour's car, phone or visit some relatives, and enjoy a special day with family.

We've been working with the cleaning product company Ecover whose love for the planet is well known, on sharing the love with family this Valentine's Day.  Ecover believe in harnessing nature as a force for good to make the world a cleaner place, sourcing ingredients from nature and perfecting them with science.  Let's harness some love this weekend too, and make sure those people we share our lives with know exactly how great they are and how much we love them.   (And, as you'll see below, we were delighted to have their planet-friendly yet super-effective products on hand for our post-cooking and crafting clean-up last week!!)

So, how can you make Valentine's Day a family occasion?

Take Some Time

However good your intentions it can be hard to find the time to show and tell people how much you appreciate them, and what you love about them.  Use this weekend to deepen the connection with your partner and your children.  Tell them how much you love them in words and deeds this weekend.  Write down what you love about each member of your family on small pieces of paper, and put them in a jar for each person; create a heart board adding a new 'I love you because...' each day for a month; write them some letters to read, sealing them in envelopes that read 'Open this when you need to know how much you're loved...'.

It is also an ideal time to introduce new habits like sharing your daily gratitudes over dinner; creating a special family day or evening (Lara recently created Happy Tuesdays in our house); or talking about the best parts of your day at bedtime.  We love the Special Time idea from Dr Laura Markham, just 15 minutes one to one time with each child each day, doing something they love to do.  Lara usually chooses drawing, reading or crafting with me and LEGO building with daddy.  Some people make this 15 minutes snuggle time before bed with the parent of the child's choice.  Either way your child will feel honoured and loved, creating and strengthening connections.

Make Decorations & Cards

Surround yourselves with love - music (not the heartbreak stuff though!), movies, decorations, even scents like vanilla and rose.  Feel the love!

For brilliant decorations there are crafts to suit all ages, talents, interests and abilities, just have a look at our Valentine's board over on Pinterest - there's even a Minions Valentine's card!  We made some super-cute decorations with the girls when their Auntie Charlotte came to visit this weekend.

We cut out large heart shapes which the girls decorated with pens, tissue paper and (lots of!) glitter.  I think we're going to be clearing up that glitter for weeks, and Charlotte took a fair bit back to London with her on clothes and skin!  We then turned our hearts into a garland of glittery heart bunting, strung up on the wall.  It looks fab and the girls are delighted with their creation.

Lara made a heart-shaped sun catcher for the window, which of course needed some more glitter!

We then created some fun hand-print trees with heart leaves to use as table decorations, cards, or posters.  Tatiana added some yellow flourishes to hers, Lara went for a dark green tree trunk and branches with lots of red glitter, and Sophia had hearts growing all the way up her tree's trunk.  Love these.

Tatiana then freestyled this cute creation which she is delighted with.  So cute.

The Greatest Gift

Whilst making cards is fun, don't underestimate the power of the love letter.  You may not be up to Napoleon and Josephine standards, but a heartfelt missive telling your partner or child everything that's great about them is the perfect gift.  Think carefully about what you love about their personality, but also things they do for you or others, their little quirks, and their talents.  Be as specific as possible and show your loved one that you really know them and notice them.  We've decided to make this one an annual event in our family, letters to treasure for a lifetime.

(For more prosaic gifts, have a look at our Valentine's gift guides.)

Fun Food

As Valentine's Day falls on a Sunday this year, we can all embrace heart-shaped waffles, eggs or toast for breakfast, and enjoy some cooking time with the children during the day for lunch and dinner.  We were treated to a family cookery session with Claire from Kiddy Cook last week and the girls had great fun making heart-shaped calzones and salad for lunch and heart-shaped honey biscuits for afternoon tea - yum!

The girls all love to cook and adored having someone different here to work with them.  They even asked if Claire could come back every lunchtime!  Here's how we got on:

Sophia learnt to knead dough

And the end results!

Making festive food is always great fun and for a Valentine's theme a simple recipe + some heart-shaped cutters means fun food in next to no time.  Just make sure you have Ecover cleaning and laundry products on hand for a fast, effective clean up!

Pay It Forward

As much as you will want to spend this weekend with you nearest and dearest, sharing your love with extended family and friends is important too.  Over the next couple of weeks phone or visit as many of your loved ones as possible, and maybe make commitments to visit later in the year, putting it in the diary straight away so you don't forget or double book.  Think about the wider community too.  If you have time are there any community projects you could commit to helping once a month?  Could you deliver some home-made Valentine's biscuits to elderly neighbours, or drop some shop-bought Valentine's goodies off to your local food bank or soup kitchen?  Ask the kids to have a post-Christmas clear out and donate unwanted toys or clothes to charity; ask your local animal rescue centres if they need old blankets or duvets, or just drop some pet food or treats round.  Put the love out there and you just might get some extra back, at the very least you'll feel great.

However you decide to celebrate this weekend, I hope 14th February brings more love into your life.

Happy Valentines Day!

To celebrate Family Valentines, Ecover are offering one of our followers a bundle of brilliant Ecover cleaning products and a cookery lesson at home for their own family.  If you would like to win, just enter via the Rafflecopter below:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good luck!

Mainland UK entrants only.

This giveaway ends at midnight on Sunday 14th February 2016.

In collaboration with Ecover.

And don't forget to enter our competitions!