Make your kid's day special this February 14 with one of these easy, heart-felt ideas. 

By Jenna Helwig

Now that I’m a parent, Valentine’s Day is less about romance (sorry, honey) and more about making the day special for the whole family. There’s nothing like showering my daughter with a little extra love, especially during this cold, dark, post-Christmas, pre-Easter stretch on the family calendar.

Plus, I’ll take any excuse to eat a little extra chocolate.

Here are some of our favorite easy ways make to Valentine’s Day memories with your kiddo.

1. Serve Dessert for Breakfast

Your child will flip when she sees chocolate or whipped cream on the breakfast table. Amy Palanjian, the lifestyle director at Family Fun, makes chocolate heart pancakes for her girls. Other sweet ideas include a whipped cream-topped smoothie, chocolate waffles, or a powdered sugar dusted Dutch baby. Even a small box of chocolates in the morning will make your child's day.

2. Pack a Fun Lunch

This year Valentine’s Day is falling mid-week so it’s the perfect opportunity to add extra love to the lunch box. That might mean sending in a sweet note, cutting a sandwich into a heart-shape, or including an extra cookie.

3. Let Her Wear Her Heart on Her Sleeve

Marisa LaScala, the news editor at Parents, gives her daughter Eloise a piece of clothing with a heart on it every year. “Last year it was little moccasins.”

4. Leave a Surprise Gift

Parents assistant editor Leslie Corona remembers, "My mom used to leave little boxes of chocolate on our pillows after my brothers and I left for school. We came back home in the afternoon to a sweet, surprise treat."

5. Serve a Fancy Dinner

Catherine McCord of Weelicious and One Potato, a family-friendly meal-kit delivery company, says, “My favorite family Valentine’s Day ritual is to throw a special dinner party for my husband and my kids. It’s something they look forward to every year.”

I love Catherine’s ideas for making the meal extra-fun:

  • Pull out your fancy china and cloth napkins for the meal.
  • Put a stuffed toy, a box of chocolates, or another Valentine's day treat in front of your kid's place.
  • Write a special Valentine's day love note and put on their plates.
  • Talk about love! Foods you love, friends that make you feel good, things you love to do with your mom and dad, or things you love most about school. Or ask your kids to name five people they love most in the world and why (animals included).

To help you get a head start on your special Valentine’s Day dinner, Catherine’s meal kit company One Potato is offering a discount for Parents readers: use the code PARENTS30 for 30% off your first One Potato box. (The company delivers to California, Nevada, Arizona, Washington, Utah, Idaho, Colorado, and Oregon.) Order by midnight on Feb. 7 to get your kit in time for Valentine’s Day.

If you live outside One Potato’s delivery zone, don’t worry. We’ve got Catherine’s recipe for Baked Shells with Winter Citrus and Fennel Salad. It’s the perfect kid-friendly recipe for a dinner that will make everyone feel loved.

Baked Shells with Spring Salad

These baked stuffed shells are the definition of comfort food. Don’t worry if your little one has an aversion to salad, there’s still nutritious spinach in the cheese filling!


1 box large pasta shells

1 Tbs. olive oil

1/2 cup frozen chopped spinach, well-drained

1 1/4 cups ricotta cheese

1 1/2 cups tomato sauce

1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese

5 oz. pack baby wild arugula salad

1 red onion

1 Persian cucumbers

1 cup grape tomatoes

Balsamic vinaigrette

1. Preheat oven to 375˚ F. Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Season the water with salt (about 1 tablespoon) and add the pasta shells. Cook shells until al dente, about 10-12 minutes. Drain shells in a colander and run cold water over them to cool. Drizzle shells with 1 tablespoon olive oil and gently toss to prevent shells from sticking together.

3. Cover the stuffed shells with the tomato sauce and place in the oven. Bake for 10 minutes, then remove dish from oven and sprinkle the mozzarella and parmesan over the top. Return to oven and continue to cook shells for an additional 10 minutes.

4. While the shells are baking, place the salad mix into a large bowl. Remove top and bottom of the onion, cut in half lengthwise, remove the outer skin, thinly slice each half and add the pieces to the salad. Thinly slice the cucumbers into coins and halve the tomatoes. Drizzle the balsamic vinaigrette over the salad and toss to coat. Serve salad alongside the stuffed shells.

COOKING TIP: This recipe is a great “make ahead” meal. Simply fill the shells, place them in the baking dish according to the steps above, then cover and refrigerate until you’re ready to bake them.



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