Childhood Development, Early Language, Speech Language Pathology, Toddler

Teach your child “I Love You”

When children come into therapy nonverbal I often ask parents what they dream of hearing their child say. The two most common responses I get are “mommy” and “I love you”.

And as a parent I understand! We pour so much of our hearts into our little ones that we dream of the day they can tell us their feelings too. But- know that long before they can say those magic words that THEY DO LOVE YOU. You are their whole world.

So let’s talk some tips to get your child saying those words:

Model, Model, Model

Say these words often and pair gestures for the words. You can either point from you and your heart to them or learn the sign language form of I love you (but in my experience this can be a difficult fine motor task for littles). You may also model this happening with a doll and have the doll “say it back” (gestures included!). Just remember- children have to understand the words before they’ll be able to speak them.

Show Them How To Use Gestures

They’ve now seen and heard this three little words HUNDREDS of times over the months/years. Now it’s time to get them involved. Break down each part of the phrase and have them imitate you in gestures as you say I love you. Touch your heart and say “I love” then pause to see if they copy. Then point to them and say “you”. If they aren’t imitating your gestures then try doing hand over hand until they get the hang of it. I’d always start with imitation and then add the hand over hand support if needed.

Work On The Words In Isolation

  • Love: start with this first. Work on having the child imitate “love” after you say it. Keep in mind it may come out a “wuv” since “L”’s can be tricky for little ones (not considered mastered until the age of 5).
  • You: I’d teach this second because it will get you to the phrase “love you”. Using your gesture (pointing to them, them pointing to you) have them repeat “you”. Again- “Y” is a tricky sound that’s not developed until later so “you” may come out more like “uu”…that’s okay!

Build Up Your Phrase

Start with “love you” (remember it’s more likely to sound like “wuv uu”). As the parent continue to pair the gestures with the words as they work to imitate your words. Sometimes the visual cue of your finger on your heart is what they need to get the phrase started.

Once they’re saying “wuv uu” (can you imagine?! My heart will melt when that day comes!) you can add on I. This is an easy sound for early communicators and they are often focused on themselves so using it as a pronoun is an easy add on once you have the rest of the phrase.

Having those 3 little words said gives us so much validation. Start practicing now, taking it one baby step at a time and your child will be saying it (through gestures, signing, or speaking) soon! Good luck and keep us posted! I’d love to hear your little ones voices saying it!

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