Looking for a meaningful Valentine’s Day tradition to bring your family closer together? Check out the Secret Valentine Experiment! Connect and develop a strong family bond through random acts of kindness, service, and encouragement. Perfect for families of all ages!
Can I be honest?
I’m not a big fan of Valentine’s Day.
It sort of rubs me the wrong way that we have to build in a day each year to tell those who we love in over the top ways.
From fancy dinners out, red roses, jewelry or other small gifts, it seems like we move from one holiday where gift giving has taken over to another one.
My kids love it though because they get to make small little paper cards to take to school and pass out, then they bring home a small bag filled with Valentine’s from others. They eagerly sort through their little cards, trinkets, and candy stash while eagerly exclaiming, “Look! This one is from Mark!”
That is sweet, and I do love that my kids are still at an age where they get excited about receiving little cards from friends.
But it bothers me that it feels like all of our acclimations of love and affection for others are reserved for one day in February.
Shouldn’t we be telling our loved ones how we feel about them all year long?
As a sweet and wise friend pointed out to me when I complaining about this very thing with her, “Yes! We should and we do, but having one day set aside for sweet and precious memories doesn’t take away from that, it only adds to it.”
I have been marinating on those words for a few years now as my heart as soften towards this day a bit.
Two of my goals for this year are to strengthen my marriage by daily acts of affirmation, affection, and service towards my husband and to build our family culture by pouring into and investing into each of my children.
With those on the forefront of my mind, I’ve been thinking about how we as a family can create new traditions, continue carrying on new ones, and grow closer together as a family this year.
I was searching on Pinterest for some ideas of family activities or traditions for Valentine’s Day but everything I found centered on purchasing small gifts, trinkets, or candy.
If there is one thing my family does not need, then that is more stuff!
So I started scrolling through those ideas of thinking how we could adopt some into a meaningful family tradition that requires spending no money or accumulating more stuff in our home when the idea hit me…
A Secret Valentine Experiment!
Not in the way that a typical Secret Santa happens where we exchange small gifts anonymously and then try to guess who our gift giver was.
But rather a way we could serve and bless one another all month long in simple ways to show love, both God’s love and the love that develops among families.
Secret Valentine Family Activity
How to Set Up
Gather your family together and explain that we are going to draw names and the person’s name that you draw is the person who you are going to be a Secret Valentine to for the next month.
With smaller children you will want to help them understand what it means to be anonymous, they might have trouble with this concept (and it’s OK if they blurt it out). 😉
Also, as a parent, you may have to “manipulate” it a bit to help your children make sure they get paired appropriately.
If you have older children with younger children, use the buddy system. Have an older sibling come alongside a younger sibling to help them out.
Once everyone understands what is going on, place each family members name on a small slip of paper and place in a basket, jar, bowel, or container and then go around and draw names. If they draw their own, just place the slip of paper back in and draw again.
Sometimes this takes a few minutes to make sure everyone gets a name!
What to To
The point of a Secret Valentine is to find small ways to bless, serve, show affection and God’s love to one another all month long, with the ultimate goal of continuing this habit past the month of February.
This isn’t about buying anything or showing with gifts, but simple acts of service, words of encouragement, and affection. This is also a great way to love one another in different love languages too!
Note: You can set the time frame to anything that works best for your family. If the full month is too long, try one week, or the 14-days leading up to Valentine’s Day. Adapt this tradition to work for your family.
Acts of Service
Ideas of acts of service might include:
- Picking up an item that belongs to someone else and putting it away
- Doing that person’s chore without being asked
- Helping the person do something
- Sharing a beloved item without complaining
- Letting them go in front of them to do something
- Holding the door open for someone
Words of Encouragement
Ideas of words of encouragement might include:
- Praising the person for completing something that was hard
- Thanking them for their help
- Replacing a negative thought with a positive one
- Leaving small notes of encouragement where they could find it
- Sharing Bible verses that encourage and point their heart to Christ
Words and acts of affirmation
- Holding that person’s hand to help them cross the street
- Giving hugs
- Telling them “I love you”
- Make little Valentine’s Day cards for the person randomly through the month
- Giving up time to play with a friend to play with this person instead
- Write out a small list of why they love that person and then place it on their pillow to read before bedtime
This is just a small list of ideas but I’m sure you could come up with a ton more with your own family! And while the main objective is to not spend any money, it might be a good idea to place some Valentine’s Day stationery, stickers or other craft supplies in a handy spot in case you have kids who LOVE making cards and art project! 🙂
Something that might be helpful, especially for younger children, is to keep a list of different actions in the kitchen or other prominent place. Not only will it serve as a reminder to be intentional each day but it will help give them ideas throughout the month.
Would you believe me when I say that after the novelty wears off, we tend to slack off on our daily requirements? 😉
Ah, yes we do!
Especially with kids. Their motivation wains even quicker than ours does which is why it is crucial to have regular family check-ins to see how everyone is doing.
This could be as simple as asking questions during meal time or gathering everyone together for a family meeting.
Since the goal is to be a Secret Valentine, rather than ask how they have been blessing and serving, you could ask, “What is one way you have FELT blessed or served?”
Everyone can go around and share something that they have noticed, experienced, or received.
This is a great lesson because it’s modeling for our children to be on the lookout to receive and be thankful for these experiences but it also helps to foster a strong family bond.
It even helps the Secret Santa feel a little validation.
Kids LOVE to be praised for something good they have done, so when they hear their brother, sister, mom or dad say they really appreciated something they did, it’s a feel-good moment all around.
At the End of the Month
On the last day of February, or whenever you decide to finish the experiment, gather everyone together for the big reveal of who had who. It’s OK if everyone figured it out, and to be honest, after a month-long experiment it’s probably going to be a miracle if they don’t know who had who!
Everyone can go around the dinner table and share who they have been a Secret Valentine for and their favorite ways of blessing that person.
After everyone reveals who they had, then everyone can share what they appreciated most about the acts of service, words of encouragement, and affection they received.
What a powerful conversation this is!
To hear siblings share what they love about one another, it really does make a Mama heart burst!
How to Keep It Going Past the Month
The goal is to keep the momentum going past the month of February.
Ask your family, “How can we continue to bless one another all year long?”
Keep the conversation going as the month changes and encourage your family to look for ways to bless one another on a regular basis. You could even do a bi-monthly Secret Valentine adaptation throughout the year as this habit and discipline begin to be implanted in their hearts.
A Secret Valentine experiment won’t magically happen flawlessly and without bickering and negative attitudes but it’s a small step to help build a strong family. I encourage you to give it a try, and it doesn’t have to be just in the month of February either.
Change the name from Secret Valentine to anything else to keep this tradition running throughout the year in your family. As your children begin to regularly look out for ways to bless and serve others, imagine the change that will begin to take place in their hearts… and yours too!