On a distant Valentine’s Day, a young Chicago gal living the sweet life enjoyed a swanky lunch in the Gold Coast with a new suitor and a dozen of the loveliest red roses. And, on that very same day, enjoyed a dinner date with another handsome suitor who gifted her with another dozen roses. Life was good.
Fast forward and young gal, now middle-aged gal, spends this sweetest of holidays with two other boys – her husband and son. Yeah, life and Valentine’s Day are a little different, but no less sweet. And while there may no longer be fancy meals and roses, there is no need to let the day pass without a bit of celebration. Here are bargain-friendly stores and tips to enjoy a wonderful Valentine’s Day for those you love most – your kids!
Target created its own oasis of mid-February sweetness, a little shopping mecca called, “Valentopia.” It does not disappoint. In addition to the basics of school Valentines and heart-shaped boxes of chocolate, Valentopia is chock full of goodness. You'll find a whole section of sweets for teacher from $4 t0 $8, Valentine’s Day party kits and favors from $1 to $10, children’s craft kits from $2 to $5 and heart-shaped baking accessories from $4 to $23. In terms of convenience, Target is one stop shopping for children from infants to teens. The trick is to branch out from Valentopia to see everything else available. Many of the individual departments have mini-selections of Valentine treats. This is where you will find cute onesies for the infant set, dollar bin treats for the tots and tweens in your life and heart-shaped string lights for the teens ($13), with a lot more in between. Let the flow of the store inspire you.
Favorite Finds: Photo Booth Party Kit, $8; “Great Catch” milk chocolate fish, $8, chocolate moustache lollipops, $2.
The Valentine’s section is easily found just past the registers and all things heart related are conveniently centralized. That saves a lot of time not milling about. The offerings skew a bit older than at Target, but your tween and teen girls would be very happy with the treats available. There are some baking accessories here, too. That said, there’s also some cute-as-a-button sweet treats such as chocolate covered strawberry Peeps for $2.49, plus lots of unique European chocolates and sweets. Another great find was the cherry-chocolate tea for $12. That is a tea party any kid would like to go to.
Favorite Finds: Heart-shaped braided rug, $25; heart-shaped pasta, $3; red velvet pancake mix, $4.
The Valentine’s offerings hit you smack as you enter the store, so you won’t miss them and cheap treats are easy to find. The goods range from home decorations like wreaths ($4 to $10) and garlands that won’t hold too much interest for the kids, unless yours are like mine and want to decorate the house for every random Tuesday. One way to spread the love is to enlist your kid’s help. A little paper, a little glue, a little scissors and a cold afternoon – you’ve got yourself with a project and a Valentine’s decoration.
Let yourself wander a bit for inspiration. Or, bring your kids along to pick out materials for their very own Valentine’s Day mailbox for class. Do you remember staying up late on February 13, wrapping aluminum foil around an old shoe box? These days there are pink and purple and red foam mail boxes, just waiting for your kid to bedazzle the heck out of.
Favorite Finds: Heart-shaped untreated wood frames, $1; Red fabric garland, $15; Tissue paper squares for crafting, $4 (cause who on earth wants to cut out all those squares?).
So many of the things found at larger retailers, can also be found at local dollar store. And, kids LOVE a good dollar store, almost as much as their cost-conscious parents. Here are just a few things you can find: class Valentines, decorations, gift bags, stuffed toys, mugs, balloons, party favors, baking supplies. My sense is the older kids get, the less enchanted they become with the Dollar Store, so this might be a better bet for the younger crowd. But, if you want to get your tween or teen a little treat, why spend anything more than $1 or $2 if it’s not necessary? Think of it as teaching a valuable economic lesson.
The inventory at dollar stores seems to go quickly and get re-stocked quickly, too. Don’t drop in on February 10 and expect to find much of anything left. It’s best to go early and stash your treasures for a few weeks.