Celebrate hearts, love and lots of family time

With only 28 days in February, you’ll have to work extra hard to squeeze out a month of fun and celebration with the people you love the most. Celebrate all things love and hearts this month. Look for hearts when you’re out and about to see how many you can spot, whether they come in the form of Valentine’s Day decorations or heart-shaped leaves or clouds. Color the glasses of milk pink by dropping red food coloring. Make heart-shaped cookies and biscuits. And share chocolate and treats throughout the month. Find new ways to share your love and affection with family members, and add some of these silly holidays to keep the festivities going all month long.

➤ National Heart Month: Create a fun craft that will last all February with the people you care about most! Cut the construction paper into 9X1 inch strips. Cut 28 strips using shades of pink, red and white paper. Divide strips evenly among family members. Have each family write a love note on the strip, such as “I love spending time with my family” or “You are a blessing to our family.” On some strips, write suggestions of fun family activities, such as “Play a board game together” or “Put on your pajamas and take a drive for ice cream.”

Once all of the strips have a love note or hint, string them together to make a chain of hearts. Using the first strip, bring the ends together and staple to form the tip of a heart. Tuck the rounded end to form the V shape of the top of the heart. Staple the “V” together to hold the heart shape in place. Wrap the next strip into the first heart shape. Then follow the same instructions above to form another heart. Continue with each stripe until you have a chain of 28 hearts. During the month of February, take the chain apart, one heart at a time, and read the words on the strip. Share the feeling of love with family members or complete the hint for family fun as indicated on the heart stripe.

➤ National Haiku Writing Month: Try writing haiku as a family. Originally a Japanese art form, haiku poems contain specific parameters: three lines containing five syllables in the first line, seven syllables in the second line, and five syllables in the last line. Typically, poems focus on the natural world, but some express thoughts about experiences or feelings. Here is an example:

An old silent pond.

A frog jumps into the pond

Splash! Silence again.

Work together and write a haiku poem. Turn this family activity into even more fun by first taking a family hike on a beautiful February afternoon. Admire and talk about the beautiful nature around you, even taking pictures with a mobile phone of various scenic spots.

Then, when you get home, pick something you observed on your walk to write about. Bring out an example, such as Canada geese flying overhead, turtles on a log in the pond, birds flitting in the trees, or leafless hardwoods waiting for spring. Brainstorm words to describe the topic you choose and how that object in nature makes you feel or what that member of nature represents to you.

Then, string those thoughts together into a three-line poem of five syllables, syllables seen, and five syllables. Have fun with creations! Some might be very serious and some might be silly and funny.

➤ Potato Lovers Month: Prepare the recipe for a tasty and filling meal on a cool night this month. Make Loaded Hash Brown Soup to celebrate the holiday. In a large pot, combine 30 ounces shredded hashbrowns, garlic salt and pepper to taste, 1 quart chicken broth, and 1 cup heavy cream. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring frequently. Turn the heat up to medium and simmer for 15 minutes.

When the potatoes are soft, add 2 cups of shredded cheddar cheese and 1 cup of grated Parmesan. Stir until dissolved. Serve with a dollop of sour cream and a sprinkle of crumbled, cooked bacon.

➤ National Thrift Closet Day — Start your spring cleaning a little early and clean out your closets together, taking out overgrown and used clothes gently to share with someone else. Donate the clothes to Goodwill, a church clothing pantry or women’s shelter. Or, pick another family with kids the same size as you, and plan to swap different outfits for each person to wear for a new thrift wardrobe celebration

➤ Great Backyard Bird Count — Take part in an unofficial day of backyard bird counting by spending an afternoon in the backyard, listening and looking for all the different bird species you can find in a given amount of time. You may choose to stock bird feeders for several days before planning bird counts, to attract new visitors to the yard.

Take photos of the feathered visitors and use bird identification books and online apps to identify any you don’t recognize.

Enjoy the month of love together and make the most of every day.

Find something about each new day to create a memory you’ll treasure for a long time. Share the time and intentionality with your loved ones, because once the day is gone, we will never have that day again. Have fun!

Statesboro native Julie Bland Lavender loves to encourage families to create memories filled with love and fun. She is the author of “365 Ways to Love Your Child: Turning Little Moments into Lasting Memories” and “Bible Bedtime Stories for Kids.”