While adults tend to focus on romantic expressions of love, the 14th of February is also a great time of year to focus on how we all, children too, can show compassionate love and kindness to our friends and family. Former primary school teacher Emma Shingleton of education resource experts PlanBee shows you how.

But first…..

Who was Saint Valentine and why do we celebrate him?

It depends on who you ask! There are 11 saints named Valentine according to the Catholic church. Some experts suggest that Valentine’s Day might be a celebration of two of them, as stories about them have become mixed and intertwined over many centuries of retelling.

Most agree, however, that Valentine’s Day celebrates Saint Valentine of Rome, a priest who ministered to persecuted Christians living in the Roman Empire. He may even have secretly performed marriage ceremonies for Christian Roman soldiers. The Roman Emperor, Claudius II, had forbidden soldiers from marrying, as married soldiers could not be forced to go to war.


  • In the UK we will spend more than £900m on Valentine’s Day (according to statista.com)
  • Men tend to spend more than women on Valentine’s Day (statista.com)

Valentine’s Day around the world

  1. In Wales, it’s traditional to give your loved one a hand-carved wooden ‘love spoon’!
  2. 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.
  3. Unlike many other countries, in Japan, it is traditional for women to give gifts to men on Valentine’s Day.
  4. Italians and Brazilians celebrate Valentine’s Day in a big way! Typically, there are music festivals and street parties held on *Lover’s Day*.
  5. Slovenia has so much love to give, it celebrates twice! As well as 14th February, 12th March is Saint Gregory’s Day, the Slovenian lover’s day. Although, its traditions have little to do with expressing love for another today: children and adults make little lights and float them on lakes and rivers, marking the start of spring.

How did we celebrate Valentine’s Day in the past?

It was 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, there was a parlour game in which single men would put their name into a hat. An equal number of single women would take turns drawing a name. The man 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!

Here are Emma Shingleton’s 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, old 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, and that includes 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!) Just remember to plug in a headset so they can talk to each other.

5. Parlour Games

Charades or Animal, Vegetable, Mineral are terrific old favourites. And with a bit of imagination, they can be played over a video call if children are unable to get together in person.