V is not just for Valentine’s Day. V is for Volunteer Day.

February 14th looms perilously near. Like a menacing Cupid hanging in the sky, shooting candy coated hearts at us, reminding us that on this particular day of the year, the expectations to come up with something exceedingly creative and romantic are very high. No pressure, Cupid.

For families with young children, Valentine’s Day adds another dimension of expectation – buying cards to exchange at school, volunteering in Valentine’s Day party activities, and dodging the “no treats” policy at school by bringing in flax seed, sugar-free heart shaped cookies, to name a few. As your kids get older, the expectations of this perfume-soaked day may change (school dances, dating, etc), but they certainly do not diminish.

So as I was out buying Valentine Day cards for my 3 1/2 year old twins to give to their classmates, a question arose in my mind – at the tender age of 3 1/2 years, how can I make this day meaningful for them? How can I include them in the festivities of Valentine’s Day in a way that inculcates love and compassion? And then it hit me. V is not just for Valentine’s Day. V is for Volunteer Day.

What better way for young people to engage in Valentine’s Day then to volunteer some of their time? After all, volunteering is an act of love – for your fellow human being, for your neighborhood, for your planet.

How about starting a family tradition by spending part of Valentine’s Day sharing your love with those in need, and helping your kids make a love connection with a cause they care about:

Many cities in the Bay Area have park clean up programs. Spend a weekend morning or evening weeknight with your kids picking up trash at a local park. This is something that even young children can do, with proper gloves and adult supervision.

Sign up to plant trees with Our City Forest, a non-profit organization dedicated to protecting, planting and growing the Bay Area’s urban canopy. This is another activity that young children can do with adult assistance, and your youngster can visit the tree he/she helped plant throughout the year and feel proud.

Help put together activity kits and organize supplies at Resource Area For Teaching (RAFT), a non-profit organization that converts commonly found or discarded materials from the business community into hands-on Activity Kits for teachers to use in their classrooms. RAFT operates in Redwood City, San Jose and Sunnyvale and relies on volunteers age 12 and up.

Sort and distribute food through Second Harvest Food Bank of Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties. Even as adults we underestimate food poverty in Silicon Valley. How well do our children grasp this? Youth as young as 14 years can volunteer in San Jose or San Carlos, putting together food packages for Bay Area families in need.

These are just a few of the hundreds of volunteer opportunities the Bay Area has to offer, so do a little research to find what suits your families needs and interests.

Don’t get me wrong. Valentine’s Day should include some grown up time (and no evening out is complete without Bay Area Sitters watching your kids : ) After all, happy couples make for happy kids. But wouldn’t it be nice to also include a volunteer element in your Valentine’s Day planning and help your kids to adopt early on a tradition of giving back on this highly romanticized, although very commercialized, day?

Wishing you and your family a V Day filled with bouquets of candy hearts, armfuls of cuddly bears and the love of family and friends…

How does your family spend Valentines Day? Please share and inspire us!


About Rabia Chaudhry

Rabia Chaudhry is a wife, mother, political junkie and lover of the written word. She lives in the South Bay while dreaming of one day moving back to her home state of New York.