1. Parenting

Valentine's Day Games and Activities

Played at a party or on your own, these Valentine games are heart-healthy!

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Valentine's Day doesn't have to be all about candy and cute crafts. Get hearts pumping with active games instead of Cupid's arrow. It will mean less heartbreak—and more fun.

Wrapped in Love

Mummy wrap game for Valentine's Day
Catherine Holecko
Borrow the "Wrap the Mummy" game from Halloween: Just substitute pink or red crepe paper streamers for toilet paper. Players must wrap a teammate as completely as possible, without breaking the crepe paper.

Jump Rope for Heart

Jumping rope at school playground, photo by Mel Yates
Mel Yates
This February fundraiser gets kids skipping and hopping to benefit the American Heart Association. If your child's school isn't participating, get out some ropes and teach him some classic jump-rope rhymes.

Heart-y Relay Races

Add a Valentine's Day twist to any relay race. For egg-and-spoon, for example, swap the egg for a jiggly gelatin heart. For drop-the-penny, try conversation hearts instead of coins. For a balloon relay, just use red or pink balloons or even a heart-shaped pillow.

Catch My Heart

A red ball or beanbag represents the heart in this fast-paced game for five to 12 players. Use just one "heart" for small children. Gradually add more to challenge older kids.

Hugs and Kisses

This one is a Valentine's Day version of Simon Says. A leader faces the players and calls out commands. "Hug!" means hold your arms up over your head to form a circle (like the "O" in "XOXO" for kisses and hugs). "Kiss!" means move into a jumping-jack position, with feet and arms out wide to form an X. Any other command means stay still or you are out. Play several short rounds so that several kids get a chance to be the leader and no one sits out for long.

Heart-Healthy Beanbag Toss

This game is adapted from Marie LeBaron at Make and Takes. First, make a list of kid-friendly fitness activities: jumping jacks, frog hops, side kicks, arm circles, and so on. If you have space for gear like basketballs, jump ropes, or a mini-trampoline, include those too.

Next, create a poster displaying your activities. They could be in list form, tic-tac-toe style, or even in concentric rings like a target. Place the poster on the floor. Then have kids toss a beanbag (make a heart-shaped one if you like!) onto the poster. You can have a set number of times to do each exercise, either overall or marked with the actions on the poster. Or you can have players roll a die or pick a playing card to give them a target number of jumps, kicks, and so on.

Heart-Scotch Hop

Outdoors, use sidewalk chalk to draw a hopscotch course using heart shapes instead of squares. Inside, achieve the same effect with painter's tape or sturdy foam cut-outs.

Amp up the game by adding extra instructions: "Blow 3 kisses" or "Pretend to shoot an arrow like Cupid" if you land on a certain space or if your marker lands outside the course boundaries.

Heart Beat

Here's another relay race option. Cut out a batch of paper hearts and write instructions on each one: Skip, crab-walk, link arms back-to-back with a teammate, and so on. Put these in a bowl or bucket at one end of the room. Split players into teams. One at a time, a player from each team runs to the bowl and picks a heart. He then returns to his team, following the instructions on his heart. Continue until everyone from one team has taken a turn, or until all players have had a chance to run.

Who Do You Love?

This spin on Musical Chairs gets party-goers moving, without excluding anyone like Musical Chairs can. Find a seat fast or you'll find you're IT (but that's fun too).

You can also play Musical Valentines. Use large heart shapes taped to the floor instead of chairs. To make the game inclusive, take away one heart each round, but don't make players sit out. Instead, everyone squeezes together onto fewer and fewer hearts until they're all crammed together on the last one.

Heart and Seek

Scatter paper hearts or other Valentine trinkets (like erasers or pencils) in a designated area and challenge kids to find them. This also works well as an outdoor game. In that case, you can even make Valentine ice cubes dyed with a little food coloring, and hide these as the treasure instead.

For another variation: Use larger paper hearts in several colors, or old Valentine cards or pictures. Cut them into pieces and hide these. Once the kids collect them all, they must work together to reassemble them.

Hearts and Showers

More fun with paper hearts! Make a bunch and mark some with a special drawing, stamp, or sticker. Pile them all on a blanket or bedsheet. Players stand around the edges of the sheet and hold it in the air. Show them how moving the sheet (gently at first!) gets the hearts moving, too. Then tell them to get ready for the Valentine shower: On the count of five, everyone lift the sheet and give it a good tug so the hearts go flying high. Drop the sheet and let the hearts rain down. Players pick up as many as they can. If you like, award a prize to the player with the most specially marked hearts, or to everyone who gets at least one.

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