Blowing kisses, giving hugs and reading bedtime stories are everyday ways parents show their children how much they love them. But since Valentine's Day is coming up soon, here are some ideas on special ways that parents can demonstrate their affection.

Blowing kisses, giving hugs and reading bedtime stories are everyday ways parents show their children how much they love them. But since Valentine's Day is coming up soon, here are some ideas on special ways that parents can demonstrate their affection.

Spend the day alone with your child doing something he or she enjoys. Working moms could take a personal day or stay-at-home moms could set up a babysitter to watch the siblings. There's something special about having mom or dad to yourself. Arrange to do something special with your little ones that they enjoy. For boys, it might be something such as visiting the Bob the Builder exhibit at COSI, driving down to the Wilds in Zanesville, or watching an OSU basketball game. For girls, you might visit the Monet exhibit, see a special performance, or go for a mini-spa day.

Start a family game night. Most families have a collection of games in their closets, so dust them off and start rolling the dice. To involve everyone, each week designate a different family member to pick the game to be played.

Sing and dance with your child. In these days of karaoke machines, iPods and "Dancing with the Stars," it's time to spark your child's love of music. Take time to teach them a few dance steps and practice while making dinner. Encourage them to sing along to their favorite pop songs even if they don't have the perfect singing voice for "American Idol."

Take a walk and smell the flowers. With all the public parks in the area, there are plenty of trails where parents can take long nature walks with their children and find interesting bugs and flowers along the way. These quiet walks can be good opportunites for parents to talk to their children.

Spend the day in your pajamas. A good idea for snow days -- everyone stays in their pj's while making cookies, drinking cocoa and watching movies snuggled up on the couch with mom.

Make up songs. Some parents are more creative than others, but this is a fun way for parents to make up their own words to their children's favorite songs. You could even take turns making up lyrics.

Use loving and funny nicknames. Based on a child's interests or personality, make up an enduring nickname that you can use at home and in public. In my house, there's "Will the Thrill" and "Jackie Chan." Just make sure it's not an embarrassing one like "stinky" or "bigfoot."

Give foot rubs and back massages. There's something soothing and comforting about the human touch, especially when it comes from mom or dad. Take the time to massage their little toes and backs, maybe using some grown up lotions such as Axe or something from Bath and Body Works.

Teach them to garden. Children love to see things grow, especially if they've been involved in the process. Take your child to the local nursery this spring to plan out a small garden of sunflowers, pumpkins and other plants. Think how much fun they'll have carving a Halloween pumpkin they planted from a tiny seed.

Pray or meditate with your child. Depending on your religious beliefs, it's sometimes useful to teach your child your religion's traditions which they can turn to during times of trouble. If you don't follow a specific religion, it might be a good relaxation technique to teach your child to meditate to relieve stress from school and life.

Leave surprise notes. Many parents will write notes on napkins placed in their kids' lunchboxes or inside a textbook. Wish them luck on a test that day or encourage them before a special event. You could also leave notes in their rooms or on the bathroom mirror.

Create a love tree. Find a tree branch with many smaller branches and "plant" the branch in a coffee can full of dirt. Cut out small hearts and write on each heart things that you love about your child.

Build a maze with a treasure map. Draw a treasure map of the house and build a maze out of furniture and boxes with a surprise gift waiting for your child at the end. Leave encouraging notes at each stop telling where to go next.

Bake heart-shaped cookies. Invest in some bakeware that makes heart-shaped cakes, and muffins. Drop the cookies or muffins in lunches, along with special notes for encouragement on big days at school.

Make coupon books. This is an old tradition, but still a good one. Make simple coupons on your computer for things that are important to your child, such as lunch with mom, batting cage with dad, choice of dinner or choice of video rental.

Plant a tree. Start a tradition of planting a tree for special occasions like the birth of a baby, a family reunion, graduation or in memory of a departed loved one. Make a small ornament or sign that can be laminated and hung from one of the lower branches.

Send your child a card or gift through the mail. On special occasions (or just because), send your child a "thinking of you" card in the mail. Send a special package with small gifts such as stickers, a stuffed animal or baseball cards, to celebrate an accomplishment.

Develop a secret word or hand signal. Use sign language from American Sign Language or develop your own signal, like tugging your ear. Have your child help make up the sign which you can use in public so you can say "I love you" without embarrassing him or her.

Make custom lunches. Use a heart-shaped cookie cutter to cut out a sandwich for your child's lunchbox. It's a way of saying "I love you" without words.

Create an ongoing photo album. Buy albums and fill them with special pictures of your children which you can update throughout the year. They'll have their own records of their lives, from first steps, first friends and first lost tooth. They'll look through the albums frequently and look forward to the updates.


Pattie Stechschulte is a freelance magazine writer who lives in Westerville with her husband, Steve, and two sons, Will and Jack.