Valentine’s Day for Time-Crunched Moms


Valentine’s Day is a fun day to show our families a little love. I asked Jennifer to write a post with me sharing our ideas and traditions. As you’ll see, we’re all for keeping it simple!

We don’t know about you, but in our homes, December through March is a blur.  It seems that Christmas is barely put away before we are smack in the middle of birthdays, anniversaries, new commitments, old commitments, and the added challenge of cold temperatures and deep snows – not to mention the sniffly noses and sick days those often bring.

We’re not ashamed to admit that neither of us have plans to make dozens of Pinterest-worthy valentines for our children’s many different classrooms this year!

But as mothers, we also realize how important family traditions are – that even the smallest memories will be held in our children’s hearts for many years ahead.  So we’ve gathered a few of our very easiest family Valentine traditions (for time-crunched moms)!

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Easy Valentine Idea 1: Heart-shaped Pancakes and other Simple Treats (Lisa)

Special foods are always fun for celebrating holidays. Heart-shaped pancakes or muffins are easy; throw in some bacon and my kids think it’s a feast.

Some years we have a red-themed dinner: bow-tie pasta with chicken in marinara sauce, pink lemonade, and cupcakes with pink frosting (and sprinkles, of course) for dessert is a hit.

Most years I pick up small cellophane bags and Valentine candy, then put together one for each child. In the absence of special bags, I’ve used a red Sharpie and drawn a heart with my kids’ names on sandwich bags – honestly, it is just fine. Most often I arrange the bags in a pretty basket on the kitchen counter. One year I put them next to their pillows so they woke to find them – not the wisest choice, just imagine kids eating chocolate in bed.


Easy Valentine Idea 2: Valentine of the Night  (Jennifer)

I am not quite sure how this happened, but a few years back, I managed to bring home a package of heart doilies and a dollar store bag of foil-wrapped chocolates, and out of that was born “Valentine of the Night.”  During the week leading up to Valentines Day, each of our kids gets to be the Valentine for one night.  I set a paper heart at their spot at the dinner table together with a piece of candy – and at dinner, we go around the table and each say something we like about that nights Valentine.


I take a photo of each child with their paper heart and then share the posts on Instagram which makes the kids feel special, and followers there have even chimed in with things that they appreciate about each child.  Its a very simple, no frills way to recognize each child during a busy time of year and seems to have officially reached the level of “family tradition.”  I do love family traditions that require no more planning ahead than a few pieces of paper, a pair of scissors, and a bag of dollar store candy!

Another easy dollar store tip for you – a quick trip while out on other errands can make any holiday special for less than $5!  Here, you can see that some tissue paper, a few craft supplies, and a package of dollar store heart decorations placed in thrift store vases made a pretty Valentine-themed mantle.

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Easy Valentine Idea 3: Valentine Table (Lisa)

As I prepared this post, it became apparent that many of our traditions are focused on the dining room table. This year I picked up a square pink, embroidered tablecloth for $1.00 at an antique shop and some pink, canning jar tealight holders for $1.45 each at Michaels. I arranged them in the center of the table where they’ll remain until Valentine’s Day. Something will probably be spilled, and I may need to wash the tablecloth, but today, it’s still clean and I’m still hopeful.

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Years when I have a little more time, I cut strips of paper and write the references for short Bible passages on love. Quotes on love also work well. At dinner, we take turns pulling them out of the bowl, looking up the verses, and reading them aloud. Obviously, life doesn’t always allow time for this, but Valentine’s day is on a Sunday this year, so I’m going to give it a try.

Easy Valentine Idea 4: Valentine Book Basket (Jennifer)

One thing our eight-year-old foster daughter loves is the basket we fill with special books just at holidays.  Two of her favorite book series these days are Pete the Cat and Junie B. Jones.  A basket of a few Valentine books is easy to gather. Younger children love picture books that only appear on holidays.

Add a pretty, pink candle and you can create the space for a few snuggly Valentine moments with your littler ones.

Easy Valentine Idea 5: Simple Valentine Tea Party (if you have a little more time  and energy) (Lisa)

My girls hosted a Valentine tea party for many years. I know it sounds like a lot of work, but trust me, it’s not. The girls invited a few friends, asking each one to bring a treat to share. With a little help when they were young, they set a pretty table, complete with tea cups and small plates for dessert.

They often cut out hearts and used paper doilies to make pretty decorations – I left that entirely to them.

When they were young, they used a couple of inexpensive (thrift store) tea pots; as they got older, they graduated to my Nana’s Desert Rose. Lots of cream and sugar was consumed from little bowls and creamers I gathered over the years.

A cake mix and some pretty cupcake liners (when I had them) completed their effort. Pretty sprinkles were a bonus.

The girls decorated cookies...Honeybee was in the middle of unbraiding her hair.

When they were very young, I supervised the pouring of tea, but for the most part, I left them to entertain their friends on their own. Very few mishaps happened and they always felt so grown-up. I have distinct memories of the year Isaiah was a newborn. Noah and Samuel napped, and I snuggled my baby while listening to Hannah and Mimi giggle with their friends in the dining room.

We continued this tradition into our years in Idaho and many sweet memories were made. Best of all, it was very simple.

Easy Valentine Idea 6: Easiest Tradition of All! (Jennifer)

This may just take the prize for laziest easiest family Valentine tradition!  A few drops of food coloring in a gallon of milk before the kids wake up (or after they go to bed the night before) will turn the milk pink.  My kids were amazed by this for several years.  They have outgrown the amazement, but it’s still a fun and easy tradition!


We hope that if you spend the next few days creating beautiful, handmade Valentines and sugar cookies, it fills you up and brings you joy – but if you need something simple and quick to mark the day, we hope that an idea from this list fits the bill!

Lisa & Jennifer

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Let me introduce myself. Russ and I are the parents of twelve children by birth and adoption, and sometimes more through foster care. I'm the creator of One Thankful Mom which has been as much of a gift to me as to my readers. In 2011 I became a TBRI® Pracitioner* and have lived and breathed connected parenting ever since. I'm deeply honored to be the co-author, together with the late Dr. Karyn Purvis, of The Connected Parent; it is her final written work. I love speaking at events for adoptive and foster parents. I'm also the co-founder of The Adoption Connection, a podcast and resource site for adoptive moms. I mentor and encourage adoptive moms so you can find courage and hope in your journeys of loving your children well.


  1. Heidi
    February 8, 2016

    I started doing a treasure hunt for my kids. They search for clues all over the house, and about every other clue has a gift hidden with it. They each get one book. Usually I have a stash of books that I've picked up at used book stores, so I don't usually even have to go shopping to do it. Now they are all excited about Valentine's Day because there will be a clue hunt!

    1. Lisa Qualls
      February 8, 2016

      That sounds so sweet, Heidi. Will you be sure to add this comment to tomorrow's Tuesday Topic, I would love to include it. Thanks!


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