Ask Maxwell: What Are Some Sweet Valentine’s Gift Ideas for My Child?

published Feb 7, 2022
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Credit: Maxwell Ryan
The "Pink" bathroom at my mother's house.

I love Valentine’s Day because it is all about love and romance for my husband and me, but what can I do with my children?


Dear Luciel,

I am glad that you find Valentine’s Day loving and romantic! So many get overwhelmed by the commercial messaging that it can dampen the spirits, but I’m with YOU! It’s an odd “Hallmark” holiday and one that you really can make anything you want, so why not make it great?

Children LOVE their parents.

I remember distinctly telling my mother that I would definitely marry her when I grew up, only to have my younger brother look at me in a confused way and then say, “Me too.” I also remember making Valentines for my mother when I was a little kid in school — cutting out red hearts and glueing them to white paper, and then doing the same with doilies.

We’re attuned to giving Valentines to our parents, particularly our mothers: Why not give one back to them?

One of the sweetest things my mother ever did was to make my us a Valentine’s card each year. It was always a small collage of odd things that she pulled together. She made them and sent them well into my adulthood.

Credit: Maxwell Ryan
Both from my mother...

Later on, an envelope would arrive in the mail, with her wobbly handwriting on the front. I’d open it up and all there would be a was a small collage of hearts — sometimes with the word “Love,” sometimes not — but always in her unmistakeable hand.

Credit: Maxwell Ryan
More Mary Ryan, with sewn beaded heart a breakthrough idea!

I was just a kid, but I always thought that these messages were her most direct and clear expressions of her love (because she didn’t express her feelings very easily). I’ve taken some photos to share.

Credit: Maxwell Ryan
My brother's to our mother on the left and our mother on the right.

And the funniest thing is that, somehow, they all ended up back in her hands and she hung them over the years in the little pink bathroom in her house. That bathroom became the Valentines bathroom.

Credit: Maxwell Ryan
From me to my mother... a particularly melancholy Valentine's card, but I remember thinking that it was all about heart break and arrows going through hearts at the time, because that was what we were told!

So, here’s my idea for you: secretly make a special little Valentine’s card for each of your children and put it out for them when they wake up on Monday. Then, after dinner, tell them that you’re all going to start a Valentine’s wall in your home and let the tradition begin.

Best, M

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Maxwell Ryan is a father and was an elementary school teacher in NYC before founding Apartment Therapy. He’d love to answer your question: This piece was created for Cubby, our weekly newsletter for families at home. Want more? Sign up here for a weekly splash of fun and good ideas for families with kids.

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