Valentine’s Day is a fun and simple holiday for children to celebrate, but the origins of the day are actually pretty complicated. While the roots of Valentine’s Day are murky, born of both pagan and Christian traditions, the common thread is love, and that’s an easy theme for kids to get behind. Here’s how to explain Valentine’s Day to kids.
Side note for parents: The notion of a man named Valentine delivering love notes far and wide isn’t exactly true, and written Valentine’s Day cards didn’t even surface until the 1400’s, but the day slowly evolved into an opportunity to send cards to loved ones, and then expanded into yet another gift-giving holiday. Today, an estimated one billion Valentine’s Day cards are sent out each year, and more than $19 billion are spent on the occasion…and the holiday isn’t even celebrated worldwide! (Only the U.S., France, Australia, Mexico, Canada and the United Kingdom celebrate it.)
It seems the best way to teach kids the meaning of the holiday is to emphasize the idea of love, and to take the following approach:
Take stock in those we love. Help your child make a list of everyone he loves. Explain that love comes in many forms, not just the kind shared between parents! Ask him to think of different kinds of love. For example, he might say he has a little crush, he loves his dog, he loves his friends, and that he loves his grandma. You can talk about gratitude during this conversation, too. In this way, you can include all of the people he may be grateful for in the list of those he loves. (His teacher and his babysitter might fit here.)
Give tokens of affection from the heart. After the two of you have compiled a list of recipients, help your child come up with small gifts she can make to express her feelings toward her loved ones. Baking cookies, and making cards or crafts might make the brainstorming list. Getting your child involved in the process of thinking for herself, preparing to make a gift, shopping for the supplies and then putting her time, energy and love into making the item will help her comprehend the holiday better than if you do it all for her.
Learn to enjoy making other people happy. After working so hard, your little one will probably be excited to deliver his gifts and see the reactions of the recipients. Lead by example by doing the same for some of your own friends and family, and letting him see the smile on your face as you give to others. This might also be a good opportunity to teach your child to give to others without getting anything in return, especially when giving anonymously to charities. Why let Christmas be the only time your child helps you donate to others? In this way, you are reinforcing the lesson that there are many ways to express and celebrate love.