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February celebrates Black History Month, Chinese New Year, Valentine’s Day, and Snow! Here are reading lists and literary guides to connect you to the season with books for all ages.

In order to promote social and emotional growth in children of all ages, families can explore the practice of empathy as a means of honoring Valentine’s Day. Offering a non-commercial way to spread love to others, Valentine’s Day empathy is a holiday lesson that can last a lifetime.

Every year, Americans exchange an average of 142 million Valentine’s Day cards – making the holiday near the top of the list of card-exchanging holidays (second only to Christmas). Valentines come in many different shapes and sizes, and can be handmade or store bought, clever and creative, or very traditional. Whatever form they come in, the valentines that we exchange each year have their roots right here in western Massachusetts, and are symbolic of the love, caring, and appreciation that we have for the important people around us.

Think about this:

Love is in the air! But what does that mean? Valentine’s Day is a special opportunity for parents to support local culture and express kindness to each other by shopping at a local business, buying flowers from an artisan florist, take museum trips, volunteer your time for others, or relax amongst fellow adults while the sitter takes over for the evening. But it isn’t just about hearts and chocolates!

Featured here are three evening community events parents can engage in for a special Parents’ Night Out in celebration of Valentine’s Day, including a ticket giveaway for two pair of tickets to see a show at the Calvin Theater!

While it’s easy to let Valentine’s Day pass in a blizzard of pink and red heart-shaped candies, the holiday’s historic roots and deeper meaning provide learning opportunities that are not to be missed! From valentine exhibits to local history to celebrations of love and appreciation, opportunities for holiday-themed community-based learning abound!

Handmade Valentine Cards are tokens of friendship and kindness while connecting and expanding an age-old tradition.

Edible Book to Dr. Seuss Birthday. Wind Turbines to Hydrodynamics. Black Holes to Hubble Telescope. Food Systems to Sugaring… These are just a few of the community-based educational opportunities we’re featuring this week! Peruse our list and make plans to get out into your community and learn while you play!

Shaker Inventions to Turkish Coffee. Smith Splash to Kitchen Kaboom. Telescopes to Rainforest… These are just a few of the community learning highlights we’re featuring this week in “Learn Local. Play Local.” Peruse our list and make plans to get out into your community and learn while you play!

This week in “Learn Local. Play Local.,” learning highlights range from chain reactions to aviation; saber-tooth cat to arctic gray wolf; candy land to medieval feasts…. Peruse our list and make plans to get out into your community and learn while you play during February vacation week!

Here is a post from our archives written by Joe Kelly: “Valentine’s Day Tips for Dads and Daughters.” These tips will help fathers and stepfathers show daughters that they care on Valentine’s Day and beyond..

If you were to write a love letter to your children, what would it say? This month in “The Good Life: A Year of Thoughtful Seasons,” Hilltown Families Contributing Writer, Sarah Mattison Buhl, shares what her love letter to her children would read like…

“Learn Local. Play Local.” is up! Valentine’s Day to Black History Month. Creative Free Play to Chemistry. Bread Baking to Snowshoeing. These are just a few of the community learning highlights we’re featuring this week! Peruse our list and make plans to get out into your community and learn while you play!

Make Your Own Handmade Valentines with Hilltown Families at The Art Garden in Shelburne Falls during a free family workshop this Friday, February 7th, from 4-7pm. Handmade valentines are wonderful expressions of thoughtfulness that can be shared with neighbors and friends, or with people you might not know. Join us to make many! Think about making a valentine for your librarian, postal worker, or teacher. Make several and deliver them to a nearby homeless shelter, nursing home, or an elderly neighbor in your community. Send them in the mail to long lost friends or relatives you have never met! Sign up to join us at the free family workshop…

Esther Howland, a Mt. Holyoke graduate and Worcester native, began designing fancy valentine cards in 1848, Learn about the local roots of the Valentine this weekend while making your own valentines and viewing displays of antique valentines at these Western MA events…

Handmade valentines are wonderful expressions of thoughtfulness that can be shared with neighbors and friends, or with people you might not know. Join us to make many! Join Hilltown Families on Friday, Feb 7th from 4-7pm to MYO handmade valentines during a free intergenerational workshop at The Art Garden in Shelburne Falls. Think about making a valentine for your librarian, postal worker, or teacher. Make several and deliver them to a nearby homeless shelter, nursing home, or an elderly neighbor in your community. Send them in the mail to long lost friends or relatives you have never met! Sign up to join us!

Hilltown Families’ Friends Share a Little Love! Moon hugs and star kisses! Our friend Charity Kahn from Charity and the JAMband in San Franciso wishes us all a Happy Valentine’s Day in this archived episode of the Hilltown Family Variety Show which aired last year for Valentine’s Day on Valley Free Radio:  HFVS Valentine’s Day 2012 Episode with Guest DJ, Charity Kahn. This year Charity gathered artwork from children all over the… Read More

Chocolate History to Guitar History. Victorian Valentines to Mardi Gras. Winterfest to Fire & Ice… These are just a few of the learning & community highlights we’re featuring this week. Get out into your community and learn while you play! History | Valentine Celebrations | Animals | Community Events | Outdoor Adventures | Mardi Gras | Fiber Arts | Science | Theater Studies HISTORY Chocolate and Valentine’s Day go together like peanut… Read More

Be Mine: Chocolate and Valentines The Roots of Valentine’s Day Traditions Old Sturbridge Village: Feb. 9th & 10th [02/08/13 UPDATE: OSV will be closed Sat., Feb. 9th and opened Sun. Feb. 10th] The tradition of having chocolate on Valentine’s Day is a longstanding one – it has been around since the early days of New England, even!  Today’s Valentine’s traditions tend not to involve a lot of homemade chocolate or laborious preparations,… Read More

Victorian Valentines Workshop Wistariahurst Museum in Holyoke Sunday, February 10th, 2013 On Sunday, February 10 from 1-3pm, come to Wistariahurst Museum for this fun and creative program that will inspire the artist in everyone! In 1847, the year she graduated from Mount Holyoke Female Seminary, Esther Howland of Worcester, Massachusetts received her first Valentine’s Day card. She was so pleased with this English novelty that she tried making some valentines of her… Read More

Spelling Bee to Cosmology.  Glass Blowing to Handmade Valentines. Ice Harvest to Hobby Railroad. African-American History Month to Groundhogs Day… These are just a few of the learning highlights we’re featuring this week.  Get out into your community and learn while you play! And be sure to check our list of supporting book titles to supplement the learning on the different topics highlighted each week. Purchase them for your family library, or… Read More

MYO Handmade Valentine Workshop Brings Families Together On Friday, January 25th, Hilltown Families and the Art Garden presented a Make Your Own Handmade Valentines Workshop, as part of a 3-part free Friday family workshop series in Shelburne Falls. Families with children of all ages gathered to make Valentines together. Getting crafty with family, friends and neighbors in a community art space like The Art Garden, builds relationships, affords opportunities to share and… Read More

This free workshop is full and pre-registration is now closed… however, there’s still time to sign up for our Valentine Swap! Click on the banner to sign up by Jan 31, 2013: Handmade Valentine Workshop for Families Friday, Jan. 25th from 4-7pm The Art Garden in Shelburne Falls Make Your Own Handmade Valentines with Hilltown Families at The Art Garden in Shelburne Falls during a free family workshop: Friday, January 25th, from… Read More

QUESTION AND ANSWERS Erin Burke Murphy writes, “Can anyone recommend some restaurants my Husband and I could go to with our 20 month old for an early delicious Valentine’s Day dinner?” Matt Grillo recommends: “Bertucci’s (Amherst, Longmeadow & West Springfield) is very family-friendly, inexpensive and tasty. ♥” Lori Shine recommends: “The Apollo Grill in Easthampton! Especially on the early side (5:30pm) they are usually not that busy, staff is super kid-friendly, their… Read More

Listen to Podcast: VALENTINE’S DAY EPISODE with Guest DJ, Charity Kahn Saturday from 9-10am & Sunday from 7-8am Feb. 11th & 12th, 2012 WXOJ LP – 103.3 FM – Valley Free Radio Northampton, MA New Podcasts ♦ Archived Podcasts ♦ Subscribe to Podcast Radio ♦ Facebook ♦ Twitter CHARITY KAHN’S PLAYLIST Bob Marley and the Wailers – “One Love / People Get Ready (Extended Version) [Remixed in 1984 by Julian Mendelsohn]” [Legend (Rarities Edition)]… Read More

Discover fun and educational events happening this week in Western Mass, along with announcements, upcoming events, links, resources and the HFVS podcast. SUGGEST AN EVENT If you have a family friendly event or educational program happening in Western Massachusetts that you’d like to let us know about, post your event on our “Suggest An Event” page. The events below are “suggested.” Please take the time to confirm that these events are happening,… Read More

Be Mine: Chocolate & Valentines Non-Commercial Way to Celebrate Valentine’s Day February 11th & 12th at Old Sturbridge Village Even when you’re immersed in the 19th century at Old Sturbridge Village, Valentine’s Day is still about sharing cards and eating chocolate.  OSV’s “Be Mine: Chocolate and Valentines” takes place from 9:30am to 4pm this coming weekend, February 11th and 12th.  Visitors to the village will learn about the history of chocolate in… Read More

Ruth Moody Band Iron Horse Music Hall ♦ Northampton Wednesday, Feb 14th, 2012 @ 7pm Hilltown Families and Iron Horse Entertainment Group have partnered up to offer a chance to win free tickets to see adult venues in the Pioneer Valley for a PARENTS’ NIGHT OUT! You pay for the sitter, we’ll pay for the tickets! For Valentine’s Day we are pleased to offer a chance to win a pairs of tickets… Read More

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