Warm wishes. Want to make dinner a love fest? Shape strands of cooked spaghetti on your child's plate into a big heart, and fill the center with marinara sauce.
Be there. When your child talks to you, don't just say "mm-hmm" while you read the newspaper or concentrate on paying bills. Make eye contact and listen. Your full attention is a gift of love.
Brownie points. Whip up your favorite brownie mix, and stir a half cup each of crisped rice cereal, mini marshmallows, and chocolate chips into the batch. Bake according to package directions. Let cool and cut into squares. Decorate each brownie with white or pink icing: Put 1/2 cup of ready-made frosting in a resealable bag, snip off one corner, and pipe out hearts or sweet sayings.
Rose-colored glasses. Cut out and enlarge the pattern (see image at right). Trace onto poster board and cut out. Trace a line around the inside of the heart-shaped lenses and cut out. Cut squares of pink cellophane, and glue them over the lens holes. Decorate frames with stickers and hearts, bend the stems, and voil?! The world looks better already.
Comfort and joy. While your kids are having breakfast on a frosty winter morning, toss their clothes in the dryer for ten minutes. When it's time to get dressed for school or day care, they'll have a toasty surprise.
You've got mail. All those valentines and no mailbox? Take an empty rectangular tissue box, and cover with Valentine's Day-themed wrapping paper or tissue paper. Scribble hearts on the top with a glue stick, and sprinkle with glitter.
Let's pretend. Get out the trunk of old clothes, and play dress-up together. That's right -- you put on Grandma's old shawl and gloves or Grandpa's bow tie, vest, and hat, and have a tea party with your child. Kids love it when you take the time to participate in their world, particularly if you let them direct the action. This is especially meaningful if Daddy plays too.
Love potion. For kids over age 4, put heart-shaped red-hot candies in an ice-cube tray and fill with water. Freeze, then place a few cubes in your child's drink, or empty the tray into a bowl of fruit punch.
Rise and shine. Make a habit of getting up a half hour earlier so the whole family has time for breakfast and a cuddle before going off to work, school, or day care. It'll get you through the day like nothing else.
Baby talk. Sit down with your little valentine, and slowly leaf through family photos from the time she was a baby. Tell stories about her first word, when she learned to walk, and her favorite toy when she was "just little."
Sea of love. Take several brand-new sponges in all colors, and trace hearts onto them with cookie cutters of various sizes. Cut out the hearts, and scatter them in the tub after you've filled it. (For safety's sake, do this only for kids ages 4 and over -- sponges can easily tear into pieces, creating a choking hazard for younger children.)
Arts and hearts. On a large sheet of wax paper, shave colorful crayons using a pencil sharpener. Spread the shavings thinly, then cover with another sheet of wax paper. Lay the wax paper on craft paper or on a grocery bag that you've opened up, cover with the same, and iron with a medium-hot iron. Have the kids trace hearts onto the wax paper, cut them out, and punch a hole at the top of each. Run curly ribbon through the holes. Hang the hearts on a branch you've brought indoors, or dress up the trees outside.
Sweet Treats. Remove the labels from several old baby-food jars, wash the jars, and spray-paint the lids red. Let dry. Then, with your child, decorate the lids with glitter, stickers, or other treasures, and fill the jars with cinnamon candies, jelly beans, candy hearts, or chocolates. Put the lids on, tie ribbon or lace around the necks of the jars, and let your child give them as Valentine's Day gifts.
Kiss and tell. Now and then, let your child listen in while you talk about him to a friend or relative, and make sure he overhears the good things you say.
Magic words. To make a secret valentine, cut out a heart from white construction paper, and write your message on it with white crayon. Put it in an envelope with a note explaining how to see the message: When the recipient paints the valentine red, the letters will appear.
Free love. Cut out hearts from red construction paper to make coupons, and write out what each coupon is for, such as "Good for . . ." one backrub, a five-minute ticklefest, an ice cream, a half-hour extension on bedtime, and so on. Slip under everyone's plate at dinnertime.
Sweet surprise. Wrap up a heart-shaped cookie along with a note telling your child just how special she is, and tuck it into her lunch box.
The kindness calendar. With your children, make up a list of thoughtful things you could do for others (like bringing gently used toys and books to a shelter or reading to an elderly neighbor). Then have everyone commit to two things on the list. Mark them on a calendar. It's a great way to spread the love around.
Heart rubbings. Using cookie cutters as templates, draw hearts on the smooth side of a sheet of sandpaper. Cut out the hearts, and tape them to a sheet of paper, rough side up. Lay a clean sheet of white paper over them, and rub lightly with the side of a red crayon to bring up the heart pattern.