There is no such thing as "too much" when it comes to telling children how much they are loved, and there are plenty of ways to both show and tell children you love them. This list is intended to spark ideas for readers who can take these ideas and make individualized "I love you" messages for their children, building special moments and lasting memories. Think of this list as suggestions and build on these ideas to create your own "I love you" list. Remember to follow each idea with a hug!
1) This first idea has a few variations, but they all involve singing. Don't groan and roll your eyes. You don't need to be a rock star. Children love the sound of their parents' voices. They love to sing, and to listen to their parents sing to them. My daughter-in-law, Dani, has a special song she sings to my grandson. It is "You are my Sunshine," the same song I sang to my son when he was a baby, but Dani sings it in a special way just for Keller. It is Keller's song, and when he hears her singing "YOU are my sunshine, MY only sunshine," his face lights up with joy. Sing a song so it sounds as if it belongs only to your child.
Sing a popular song to your child, but substitute your child's name for some of the words. "I love my Timothy, my baby Timothy. He is my Timothy both night and day." Substituting your child's name in a song may also help very young children learn their names through repetition.
Singing can also be an educational tool. Try making up your own song. You don't have to be a professional, or expect to compose a masterpiece, but you should make it clear that you are speaking from the heart. Use a familiar tune, but add your own words. For instance, using the music from "You are my Sunshine," you could teach your child about the parts of the body by singing, "I love Eli's hair, and his big blue eyes, his happy smile and his cute nose. I love his ten toes, and his ten fingers, I love his belly where his food goes." As you sing the song, have your child point to the parts of his body.
2) Kiss the palm of your child's hand and tell her this is a kiss of love. Fold her fingers down and tell her it is a very special kiss and she should keep it safe and close for when she feels she needs extra love.
3) Draw a heart on a small piece of paper. Explain to your child that the heart is a symbol of your love, that it is a picture that means "I love you." Slide the heart inside his pillow case and tell him it will help him have nice dreams about how much he is loved.
4) Take photographs of your pets, spouse, and other family members. On the back of each picture write the name of the person. For instance, you might say, "Daddy loves you." Or, "Doggy loves you." Mail each photograph individually, at different times, to your child and allow her to open the envelope herself and find the picture, then read the words on the back to her.
5) When you tuck your child into bed, list all of the good things she did that day and follow each item on your list with, "Thank you so much, Layla! I love you!" Do not say a word about any problems or mistakes. Before your child falls to sleep, make certain that all of your last words are loving words.
6) Buy a heart-shaped cookie cutter and use it to cut your child's sandwiches, then when you serve the heart- shaped lunch, remind your child that the heart is your way of saying "I love you."
7) Tell your child the story of his or her birth. You may be surprised by how many details you remember, such as the song that was playing as you drove to the hospital, or the color of the shirt you wore. The first words Dad or Mom said when he or she first looked upon the baby, or the expression on Grandma's face when she held him in her arms. Make sure you include older siblings in the story, too. Remember that the emphasis is on love, so make certain you remind your child of all the love that was in the room. It's all in the wording. You can say, "We wrapped you in a blanket with love. We placed you in your car seat and strapped you in because we love you and want you to be safe, always."
8) Write the words "We love you" on a card and explain what each word says. Tape the card to your child's bedroom door and every night before bed read the card out loud with your child followed by hugs for every member of the family. Creating the sign can also be a joint craft project by adding decorative sparkles together or coloring the sign with crayons.
9) Create an "I love you" scavenger hunt. Draw hearts on ten pieces of paper. Make a list of things you have given your child or items that are special to your child, such as a special teddy bear or blanket. Make sure they are easily within reach and tape a heart to each item. For each item, think up very simple clues that you can give to help your child guess the location of each item, such as, "you will find this where you lay down at night to sleep," then have her search for the item and bring it back to you. If there are older siblings, involve them in the game by having them help explain the clues to the younger child. Make sure you play the same game with each of the older children later!
When all of the items are collected, remove the hearts and tell your child the hearts show how many times today that you thought about how much you love her, then help her place the hearts in her dresser to remind her every morning when she gets dressed that you think about her all day long. The list can be shortened to five for younger children with short attention spans.
10) Just before dinner, write a note that says "I love you" and teach each word to your child, then place the note beside his plate and tell him it is a reminder of your love. You can also write the child's name on the note to help him learn how to read his name. Keep a pad of paper and a pen in the kitchen. Whenever you prepare a meal for your child, write "I love you" on a piece of paper and place the paper beneath his drinking cup or beside his plate so he sees it every time he sits down to eat. Ask if he remembers what it says, then say it together and give him a hug.
There must be hundreds of ways to make a child feel unique, and loved. Try buying a journal and writing your ideas down along with a description of the special moment when you first shared your "I love you" idea with your child. You can review the journal through the years, and it will make a wonderful gift when your child is older with children of his or her own.