Former primary school teacher Oli Ryan of education resources experts PlanBee says that while adults tend to focus on romantic expressions of love, February 14 is an ideal opportunity to show children how to demonstrate compassionate love and kindness to friends and family.
What is Valentine’s Day?
Valentine’s Day is a saint’s day in the Christian calendar when the martyrdom of a Saint Valentine is celebrated; Saint Valentine was buried on February 14.
Who was St Valentine?
It depends who you ask, and which St Valentine you’re talking about. There are 11 saints named Valentine according to the Roman Catholic Church. Most commentators agree, however, that Valentine’s Day celebrates Saint Valentine of Rome, a priest who ministered to persecuted Christians living in the Roman Empire.
DID YOU KNOW
Britons are predicted to spend more than £900m on Valentine’s Day in 2021 (statista.com)
Men tend to spend more than women on Valentine’s Day (statista.com)
Unsurprisingly, most lovers intend to celebrate at home this year – getting a takeaway or cooking a meal, and watching a movie together (finder.com)
Many people express their love for one another publicly on social media
Five Valentine’s Day traditions around the world
- In Wales, it’s traditional to give your loved one a hand-carved wooden ‘love spoon’!
- In Finland and Estonia, 14th February is better known as the ‘Day of Friends’. Rather than expressing romantic love, friends show their affection for one another by exchanging gifts or meeting up to spend time together.
- In Japan, women give gifts to men on Valentine’s Day.
- Italians and Brazilians celebrate Valentine’s Day in a big way: typically, music festivals and street parties are held
- Slovenia has so much love to give that it celebrates twice! March 12 is Saint Gregory’s Day, the Slovenian lover’s day. Children and adults make little lights and float them on lakes and rivers, marking the start of spring.
How was Valentine’s Day celebrated in the UK in the past?
In the UK, it was once more typical to send a card or a love note anonymously, perhaps leaving a clue about yourself for your love interest to work out.
In Scotland, it was popular to play a parlour game where single men would put their name into a hat. An equal number of single women would take turns drawing a name. The man who they picked would then accompany the woman for the rest of the day.
In England, women used to write the names of potential lovers on little pieces of paper, then roll them together inside a ball of clay. They would then drop the clay ball into the water. Whichever name rose to the surface first would be their one true love.
How to teach children about love and kindness on Valentine’s Day
At PlanBee, we think Valentine’s Day is a great opportunity to teach children not only about why it’s important to express love for a partner but also how to strengthen friendships – just like the Finnish and Slovenians.
As well as sharing these fascinating facts about the day, you could arrange an activity for your child to do with a friend.
There are some lovely lockdown-friendly activities you could arrange for your children, to help foster their friendships at a time when it’s difficult for them to meet up.
Five great activities for fostering children’s friendships
1. Arrange a treasure hunt with another family
This is a lovely activity which your child will love to plan and personalise for a good friend. Place secret notes, painted pebbles, Christmas decorations or even make ‘nature art‘ along a short walking route. Write out some clues, and post it through your friend’s door. Next week, invite them to do the same for you and your family. Don’t forget to pick everything up afterwards.
2. Pen pals
Children love to share things with their friends, including pictures, poems and stories they’ve written themselves. Suggest the idea to your child. Hopefully, it will inspire them to write something nice to a friend, which you can either post in the mail or hand-deliver to their letterbox.
3. Book swaps
Arrange a book swap for your child and one or more of their friends. They can select one or two of their favourite books to swap for a while. It will give them something to talk about with their friends on Zoom! You could even provide some blank bookmarks on which they can write a little review of the book for their friend to read.
4. Video games
It’s easy to think of playing video games as a solitary activity, but these days it’s more often a social experience. With your child, choose a collaborative—rather than a competitive—game they could play online with a close friend (we like Splatoon and Overcooked – both good examples of child-friendly, cooperative gaming which your children will also enjoy playing with you.) Remember to plug in a headset so they can talk to each other.
5. Parlour games
With classes conducted over Zoom, children are pretty much over video meetings. Giving them a bit of structure will make virtual playdates much more enjoyable. Talk to them about how to play simple parlour games like Charades or Animal, Vegetable, Mineral – or help them set up their own version of ‘Kim’s Game’ to challenge their friends. With a bit of imagination, there are all sorts of traditional parlour games which can be played over a video call.
Download these resources to help your child develop kindness and friendship here.