Holidays are tricky times for anyone trying to be mindful about sugar. Our holiday celebrations are punctuated with candy, cakes, cookies, and other desserts. While they may be good for our taste buds, they aren’t good for our waistlines, our health, or our children’s health.
As a mother of four who has consciously limited her children’s sugar intake over the years, I’ve learned several tricks to make holidays fun without overdoing sugar. Here are ten ways to enjoy a sugar free Valentine’s Day with your children:
1. Host a Valentine’s Day tea. I did this on a whim one Valentine’s Day – my children (along with several beloved stuffed animals and favorite dolls) got dolled up in their fanciest dress up clothes, while I set a fancy table with a tablecloth, candles, classical music and my best china. I set out an assortment of herbal teas along with sliced fruit, sandwiches cut into tiny squares, and biscuits. This has become a perennial favorite of my children.
2. Celebrate what’s sweet about your children. Every year I take white cardstock, or white posterboard, cut into four rectangles, and glue five large red hearts on each page. Then I write on the top, “What’s sweet about….” filling in a child’s (or my husband’s) name on each page. I write a brief note in each heart that shares something sweet: “I love that you always feed the dog without being asked.” Or, “You are loving and helpful when your brother needs help getting a snack.” Or, “I love your curiosity: your love of reading inspires me.” When my daughters were cleaning out their bedroom closet a few weeks ago, they found all of their old Valentine’s Day cards—they had held onto them over the years, they treasured them so.
3. Relish the first strawberries of the season. The middle of February usually marks the arrival of the first batch of strawberries in the grocery store. I build on the excitement of this event—my children can’t wait for strawberries to come into season—by presenting a treat of strawberries with fresh whipped cream on Valentine’s Day morning.
4. Give a token of your love.
When we give a gift of candy or sugar – or anything, for that matter – we’re saying, “I love you,” and, “I see you.” We want to show the other person both that we care and that we know them well. Accomplish the same goal with a sugar free substitute: this year I’m giving my children each a little Swarovski crystal for Valentine’s Day that they can hang in their bedrooms. I’ll attach it with a note, telling them how the crystal represents my love for them, always shining and watching over them. You can also give your child a little heart or angel charm, or even a heart pillow that symbolizes the same thing.
5. Share stories from their babyhood or your pregnancy. What child doesn’t love hearing stories about themselves when they were babies and toddlers? My children love hearing their birth story, or what it was like being pregnant with them. Spend some time on Valentine’s Day looking over old photos or their baby books, reminiscing and sharing stories. This always fills my children’s tank, as we call it, especially if they’ve been feeling inside out or missing one on one time with Mom or Dad.
6. Take a bath. My children love baths. Tap into this natural desire and treat your children to fun bath goodies: fancy bubble baths, bath confetti, bath salts, soaps, or even bath paints. Then fill up the tub and let them enjoy their new treats.
7. Children love flowers, too. Children crave beauty just as adults do. My children love receiving flowers – I was made aware of this one year when my daughter was in the Nutcracker. She asked me, “Mom, can you get me a bouquet of flowers for after my performance?” It meant so much to be honored with her own flowers. In the past, I’ve given my children a few roses or a small potted flowering plant for Valentine’s Day. My girls also like drying their flowers once they start to fade.
8. Cook a fancy dinner. It is a misnomer than children only like junk food. I know many children – not just my own – who appreciate things like shrimp, fish, and a hearty lasagna. Serve up a fancy, special dinner on Valentine’s Day, something you don’t cook very often, such as a steak dinner, tamales, or homemade pasta. Or do something fun, like a taco bar or make your own pizzas, where each child can pick and choose her own pizza toppings.
9. Play, “I love you because,”…When you’re enjoying your family’s Valentine’s Day dinner, take turns going around the table and sharing what you love about each other. First, have everyone share what they love about Dad, for example. Then switch and focus on a child. Keep going around the circle until each family member has been featured. My husband did this for me a few weeks ago when I had a discouraging day. I was so touched by the sweet responses of my children – and many of the things they shared caught me by surprise, like when my daughter said, “I love your lentil soup!”
10. Celebrate a favorite children’s book. One of my favorite children’s books is, Somebody Loves You, Mr. Hatch, a sweet Valentine’s Day story about how a lonely man’s life is transformed one Valentine’s Day. Make a ritual out of reading the story out loud over breakfast or dinner. Even adults and older children will be touched by this sweet tale.
Once the children are in bed, and it’s time for the adults to celebrate Valentine’s Day? I hope you find that there are much better things to do than eat chocolate….
For further reading:
- In this interview with Jimmy Moore on the Livin’ La Vida Low Carb show, we talk about how to have a joyous, sugar free Valentine’s Day.