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13 Valentine’s Day Date Ideas that Don’t Require a Babysitter

Romance gets top billing on Valentine's Day, but it can be fun for the whole family, too —as any pair of lovebirds who has little ones has surely had to learn.

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Find a new family tradition

Once you have kids, long gone are the days of impulsive date nights that stretch late into the wee hours of the next morning—but that doesn’t have to be a bad thing! Leaving the kids with a sitter is all well and good, but babysitters are hard to come by and are expensive, so that may not be a realistic plan for every year. If you’re stuck at home this Valentine’s Day, here are some ideas that don’t require a sitter—and are still sweet and fun! Plus, here are some more great tips for a fun Valentine’s Day on a budget.

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Order your favorite takeout

Put the pizza menus away and order grown-up food from your favorite restaurant, serve it on the good china, and watch your favorite movie on Netflix. (Wait until your kids are tucked into bed, of course!) “Late night sushi take-out and James Bond DVDs are our annual Valentine’s Day tradition,” shares Erin Zimmerman, mom of one. “I love it!” Unsure of which movie you should watch? Any of these top romantic movies of all time make for great cheap Valentine’s Day date ideas.

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Cook a gourmet meal

If you have more sophisticated aspirations for your Valentine’s Day dinner, but you can’t find a babysitter to hold down the fort at home, consider cooking a restaurant-quality dinner by using a meal prep box, like those from Hello Fresh or Blue Apron.

kids dipping marshmallows in a chocolate fountainTsuguliev/Getty Images

Treat the whole family

If you are going to be home with your children on Valentine’s Day, why not involve them in your celebration? Chaunie Brusie, mom of four, found an inexpensive chocolate fountain at Target one year, and it became the centerpiece of one of their most memorable Valentine’s Days at home with kids. Looking for cheap Valentine’s Day date ideas that work for the whole family? Take a note from Beth Fulbright, mom of two. “We make homemade heart-shaped pizzas. The boys are always down to help make pizzas and the heart shape is different and fun.” Lucky enough to score a last-minute sitter? Try one of these creative date night ideas that beat dinner and a movie.

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Load up the whole gang for a night out

If you’re up for the adventure, don’t let your lack of a sitter keep you from getting out of the house for the holiday. While you might (and should!) think twice about dragging your kids to a steakhouse for a candlelit dinner, there are plenty cute Valentine’s Day date ideas that are casual enough to enjoy with your entire family. When her two kids were younger, Claire Lynn and her husband started taking them along for dinner and a night at the drive-in. It became a tradition for her family, and even though her kids are older, they still spend Valentine’s Day together as a family at the drive-in theater. Check out some fun facts you never knew about Valentine’s Day!

young girl making heart shaped pancakes with the guidance of an adult out of frameJGalione/Getty Images

Start the day with a family breakfast

Since having kids, Lacy Stroessner and her husband have always spent their Valentine’s Day as a family—and they kick the day off with breakfast out at a diner. “It’s the perfect way to start the day. And yes, the kids come along!” This is a great alternative to going out in the evening for parents of young kids because you won’t have to worry that your brood will disturb couples looking to have a romantic dinner, it’s less expensive, and no reservations are required. Or try a fun breakfast at home, like strawberry waffles or heart-shaped pancakes, and be sure to involve the whole family in the cooking.

mother and child daughter reading book in bed before going to sleepevgenyatamanenko/Getty Images

Mandate an early bedtime

Make the kids a quick and easy dinner, like a box of macaroni and cheese, read them a few books, and send them off to their rooms to go to sleep. That way you can still spend most of the evening alone with your significant other. What you do after they fall asleep, well, that is entirely up to you. “After the kids go to bed, we have dinner, cheesecake, and sparkling grape juice,” says mom Jessica Guhl, “We usually turn on a movie we’ve seen before (because then you don’t care if you miss part of it), and play games. It actually makes for a fantastic date night!” Find out the 20 things happy couples do on the reg after work.

heart shape strawberry and watermelon fruit skewers on white plate, fun food art for Valentines dayThitareeSarmkasat/Getty Images

Pick a theme

Take dinner and a movie to the next level by picking a theme for the whole night. Rachel Peck, mom of three, made a red dinner including spaghetti sauce, red drinks, red jello, and red cookies one year when she and her hubby couldn’t get out. “We even had red decorations,” she recalls. You can also pick your movie and plan the whole night around your choice, dining on food inspired by the location of the movie or eating a meal seen in the movie at some point.

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Plan a trip

What could be more romantic than planning a whirlwind getaway together (besides, of course, actually going on one)? This is something you can do with your little ones or just you and your boo. It can also be as legitimate or as just-for-fun as you want it to be. You can actually dive in and talk about the possibility of going to a bucket-list destination, or you could do the fun “spin-the-globe-and-point-somewhere” game and let your kiddos’ (or your) imaginations run wild about what you’d do in that place. (And who knows, that could actually spark some real travel ideas!) Check out some of these dreamy adventures for couples around the world for inspiration.

Children's hands squeeze using pastry bag filling hot melt chocolate into silicone mold. Selective focus.sirichai_asawalapsakul/Getty Images

Make candy

Sure, it’s all well and good to buy up a bunch of red-and-pink-wrapped Valentine’s Day candy. But how much more fun and memorable would it be to make your own candy?! Your kids are sure to love this at-home activity. Buy a heart-shaped candy mold, like this one, and some melting chocolate wafers, get your chef’s hats and aprons on, and unleash your inner Willy Wonkas! Or, if it’s snowy on V-Day, collect some fresh snow and try out this absolutely delicious, unique maple taffy recipe. It’s super easy as long as you ensure the syrup reaches exactly the right temperature; you will need a candy thermometer.

Shot of a little girl building a puzzle with her mother at homeshapecharge/Getty Images

Do a puzzle

If you’ve got a young’un who loves puzzles, get cozy on Valentine’s Day and crack open a puzzle box. Or even if you’re not a puzzling family, try it and you might be surprised with how engrossed you get! Hours will fly by and looking for piece patterns might just keep your inquisitive kid quiet up until bedtime. If you want your little one to be your Valentine, here are some great Valentine’s Day gift ideas kids will love.

Young parents teaching their daughter to skateshironosov/Getty Images

Do a wintry activity

Just because Valentine’s Day takes place during the winter doesn’t mean you have to spend it indoors! If it’s a reasonably nice day (and time permitting, of course), build a snowman (or snow couple!), go sledding on your favorite hill, or hit the ice skating rink. Ice skating is especially romantic; hold hands as you circle the rink like a cute old-timey couple.

A little boy sitting in a basket looking through binocularsPeopleImages/Getty Images

Have a treasure hunt

This is an adorable way to keep the kids busy that they’re sure to love! Buy a couple of your kid’s (and/or significant other’s!) pieces of candy and hide them throughout their home, and set the person loose to find them all. Play “hot and cold” as they get closer to the goodies, or give them fun scavenger hunt–style clues. While candy-shopping, skip these types of Valentine’s Day candy that people secretly hate.

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Watch your wedding video/look at wedding photos

If your kids are young enough to not think romance is “icky” yet, or old enough to genuinely be interested in what their parents were like before they came around, spend Valentine’s Day eve with a walk down memory lane! This activity still keeps your kids busy while also keeping the romance alive for your and your spouse. Laugh playfully at your old-fashioned hair and clothing, point out family members your kid knows (or introduce them to ones they might not), or recreate your first dance. Next, check out some more Valentine’s Day date ideas that long-term couples swear by.