While the rest of the world is getting loved-up in French restaurants and plush hotels, parents with young kids can find it harder to get in the mood for love.

But that doesn’t mean we should miss out completely. We’ve put together a list of simple but sweet Valentine’s Day ideas for parents in Essex.

1. Think GIFT

As the old saying goes, it’s the thought that counts. Never is that more true than on Valentine’s Day – the day specifically set aside for love and romance. Even if your ideal gift comes with a big price tag, what’s more important is the thought behind that special present.

When choosing a gift, make sure it passes the GIFT test: the present should inspire a sense of Gratitude, Intimacy, Fondness and Trust. Often the best gifts are the ones we don’t buy at all. A back rub at the end of a long day (uninterrupted by a screaming child), a romantic home-cooked meal, or putting on their favourite movie can say a lot more about how you feel about your partner than a pricey gift.

2. Dec the halls with heart and flowers

A few decorations can help everyone get into the Valentine’s mood. It’s also a good way of keeping young kids occupied and tantrum free (for five minutes, at least). Make red, pink and white paper chains, paint pictures together, or bake cookies; there’s plenty of minimum-fuss ideas on web, so have fun getting creative.

valentines day ideas for parents

3. Family-friendly afternoon tea

If you fancy getting out of the house, look out for local venues running Valentine’s Day craft sessions. The Essex Wildlife Trust are hosting a special activity on Feb 14 at several of the sites. At the Naze Centre in Walton-on-the-Naze, parents can enjoy a Valentines day afternoon tea while the little ones get stuck into the themed crafts. Sessions cost £13.95 for the crafts and tea – contact Mark Broome on 01255679379 or email naze@essexwt.org.uk.

The Museum of Power, near Maldon, will also be holding an Valentine’s Day afternoon tea, with two sittings at 2.00pm and 3.30pm. The mini railway will be closed that day, but children will be fascinated by exhibits and the model village. To book call 01621 843183 and ask for the Tea Room. Outside business hours call Clare on 07535 458504.

4. Snuggle on the sofa

Kids are no barrier to this classic show of love. So pile up the sofa with a duvet and pillows before sticking your favourite lovey-dovey movie. It’s the easiest way to create a feeling of closeness. It’s also the ideal place to be if you’re feeding a young baby!

Our top family film picks for Valentine’s Day are:

– Lady and the Tramp
– Stardust
– Beauty and the Beast
– Gnomeo & Juliet
– The Princess Bride
– The Little Mermaid
– WALL-E

5. Show your love with pottery

Get ready to re-enact the famous Ghost pottery scene! Erm, maybe not, but pottery studios are a great Valentine’s Day activity for a few good reasons: they promote quality time together, they don’t cost the earth, and you’ll all get a precious memento take home.

The Have a Go sessions at Hazle’s Pottery Barn, near Billericay, allow you to have a ‘throw’ on the potter’s wheel. Each session costs additional £18 to create and fire a pot, and you can return on another day to decorate it and have it glazed and fired again ready to take home – a lovely idea for a DIY family heirloom! Email info@hazle.com or call 01268 270892 to check availability.

While you’re there, you could also create a baby hand or footprint gift so your little one will have a memento of their fun family Valentine’s.

6. Take a romantic snowdrop stroll

February is a time for woodland wanders with the first flowers of the year carpeting the ground. As thousands of snowdrops start to pop up, there are plenty of places in Essex which make an ideal setting for romantic family walks.

valentines day ideas for parents

On Valentine’s Day from 11.00am to 4.00pm you can enjoy the blooms at Hyde Hall Woodland, Chelmsford, with one of the guided Winter Walks that take place every Tuesday during January and February. You can follow up your walk with some warm soup and a scone for just £4 in either the café or restaurant.

As it’s also half term week, there’ll be lots of activities on at Hyde Hall to the kids entertained – and we all know that happy kids means happy parents. What better way to spread that loving feeling on Valentine’s Day?

7. Make love notes

Keep that loving feeling alive by writing little love notes and tucking them into places to be discovered throughout the day. Slightly younger children can have fun hunting for heart shaped notes that have happy drawings rather than words.

8. Shake up your routine… just a little bit

The quickest way to make a day feel special is to change up your usual habits. If you’ve got a baby or toddler, you won’t want to alter their whole schedule, but there are some small changes you can make that won’t cause sleepless nights.

You and your partner could agree to get up 20 minutes earlier so you can enjoy your favourite breakfast together. Or let everyone jump in the big bed for morning cuddles and that lovely lazy Sunday feeling.