February 1, 2018
Just when you’re breathing a sigh of relief that the holidays — and the candy canes, eggnog, and other tooth-destroying sweets that go with them — are over, February arrives.
Yup, Valentine’s Day is almost here, which means another influx of candy into the house. Or does it?
We are not advocating that you forbid your children from eating any candy at all. After all, deprivation tends to increase temptation. But there are ways you can minimize the consumption of sweets in your house and still give your kids an awesome, fun-filled Valentine’s Day.
Tooth-Friendly Treats and Activities
There are lots of ways to give your children a Valentine’s Day to remember — in a way that doesn’t put the health of their teeth and gums at risk. Here are a few ideas to use as inspiration.
Gifts Don’t Have to Be Edible
Rather than the expected box of candy, consider giving your child something that is better for her teeth and that won’t disappear in a matter of days. What is appropriate depends on the kid’s age and personal interests, of course, but consider the following:
- Cute themed socks
- A Valentine’s Day shirt, pajamas, other clothing item
- Stuffed animals
- Matchbox cars
- Art supplies
- Valentine’s Day Mad Libs
- Older kids may like a pair of DIY customized headphones.
Of course, you know your child better than we do. Any little gift is perfect for Valentine’s Day, as long as it’s tailored to the recipient’s interests. Wrap it up in pretty, heart-printed paper.
Start the Day with a Memorable Breakfast
So many favorite breakfast foods can be made extra special for Valentine’s Day. The holiday does fall on a Wednesday this year, so be sure to plan ahead so everyone can get out the door for school and work on time.
- Make toad-in-a-hole, but cut out a heart shape rather than a circle in the bread. A small cookie cutter makes this task easier.
- A pink or red berry smoothie is an easy but delicious way to start off the day. Use packaged frozen strawberries and other fruits for simplicity, be generous with calcium-packed plain yogurt, and keep sweeteners like fruit juices and honey to a minimum.
- Strawberries are naturally heart shaped (and red!), making them especially appropriate for a Valentine’s Day breakfast.
- You can even make heart-shaped bacon!
Send Your Love in the Lunchbox
Basically, anything that can be shaped into a heart can be a Valentine’s Day lunchbox treat: sandwiches, cheese and cold cuts, pita bread (serve with hummus). Cut fruit into heart shapes and thread onto a toothpick or short skewer for kabobs. And don’t forget to include a heartfelt note to your sweetie.
Express Your Affection Through Crafts
Kids love making stuff, and creating colorful Valentine’s Day crafts is a lively way to pass the day with younger kids. Cut out construction paper hearts, write messages on them, and hang them up throughout the house or on your child’s bedroom door. Or do a nature-themed project like these adorable bird seed hearts.
School Parties: Avoiding Candy Overload
You can avoid buying candy and other unhealthy foods at home, but if your kids are in school, they may have a Valentine’s Day party in class. Short of pulling your kid out of school that day, it may be impossible to avoid it. So how can you keep your children from going overboard on sugar?
- You can’t really police your child’s behavior in the classroom. If sweets are served, it’s okay to indulge in moderation. Encourage him or her to drink water, not juice.
- Valentines sold for classroom exchange are often packaged with candy. When your child brings the stash home, go through it and purge anything with a sticky, chewy, or gummy texture. Hard candies are also terrible for the teeth. Chocolate is better, but hold on to it and dole out over time.
- Don’t contribute to the problem! When you and your child choose Valentines to give out, avoid any that include candy. Purchase a style that includes a sticker, temporary tattoo, or joke. The American Dental Association even has free downloadable Valentine’s Day cards that promote oral health!
In February and throughout the year, making sure your kids practice good oral hygiene will go a long way in keeping their teeth and gums healthy. And twice-yearly dental visits are essential.