Every night I cuddle my children to sleep and take the chance to tell them I love them.

With my oldest child, we have a bit of a routine. I say, “Can I tell you something?” And she rolls her eyes playfully and says, “I knooooow” and I say, “What then?!” and she drawls, in a bored, five-going-on-15 kind of a way, “You love me.”

But she giggles and I giggle and we know its true. (It’s so true, it’s boring.)

“I love you” is one of those things we can’t say enough times and there are so many ways to say it. Words, acts of kindness, play, touch. 

Here are 30 fresh ways for you to let your children know you love them.

Now, I’m not gonna lie to you, some of these are serious cheese burgers so please use your common sense. DO NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES WRITE YOUR TEENAGE SON A LOVE LETTER FOR HIS LUNCHBOX. Pick something more subtle, less publicly shaming for him, okay?

Through code

My neighbors have a little family code. They touch their eye, fist bump their chest, and point. It’s their own sign language for I Love You. They say it to each other across a crowded room.

We have our own way of greeting. We bump fists and do a wavey thing and say, “High Five, Dolphin Dive.” My daughter picked it up from the playground but its ours now.

My friend told me about a code word they had growing up, “Toast,” and it meant that they were in big trouble when they got home. Their parents would issue it across a dinner table when visiting guest and the boys would know to improve their behavior. Eeek! I like a code word that instead says, “I love you,” in a secret language. Imagine bursting out with, “TrumpyCrumpet!” in a busy place just to let your kids know you love them. Gonna try it.

We recently changed the password for our old laptop, the one the kids use for watching movies, to “IloveRamonaandJuno” – I have to spell it out and show them the letters so they can type it in each time. It’s a little reminder in their everyday business.

Through writing

I was at a festival once and there was a “Love Fairy.” You wrote a note and gave it to her, with a description of who it was meant to go to, and she delivered it on your behalf. I did one for my daughter and her whole face lit up with glee!

How about writing a little love note and sending it in the mail to your kid? 

How about writing them a poem and leaving it on their pillow?

How about drawing them a little picture to put in their lunch box?

Write them a message in the steam on the shower window or mirror.

Chalk it on the pavement for when they get home.

For their birthday, consider writing 52 things you love about them so they can read one each week for the next year.

Through touch

There is evidence to suggest that healthy touch promotes happiness and well-being and can even make people better at what they do.

Shoulder massage. My daughter loves watching films. Often we’ve seen them 737,800 times (approximately) so I am not that piqued by the storyline any more. I take the opportunity to give her a shoulder massage. It is one way to connect with her when she is doing something potentially quite isolating.

Rough housing. Wrestling, tickling, gymnastics, bouncing on the bed. This is heaven for children. How to make sure they take up the invite? Just lie down and look like you are thinking about having a nap. They will open the can of rough house on your relaxing self. 

Hand games. We play “Catch the Hand” where I close my eyes and a child has to try and poke the palm of my hand and I have to grab it. I also trace in and out of their fingers singing the bunny song. Whoops bunny, etc. You know it?

Walking on my feet. They balance on my feet and I hold their hands and I make them walk, with my own feet. We can do this for years.

Kisses. All the kisses. Butterfly kisses. Nose rub kisses. Chin kisses. Kisses in patterns. Kisses to the tune of Christmas carols.

(Here are more ways to squeeze more loving touch into your relationship with your kids.)

Through acts of random kindness 

I think the world is somewhat run on random acts of kindness. I also think that the duty of care that comes with parenting can take some of the fun out of it. So how can we add the randomness to our kindness? By being a little imaginative.

Nighttime toy arranging. Neither of my children are really morning people. I don’t know where they get it from! (It’s from me.) Right after they get out of bed can be the trickiest time. So I’ve been doing little things like setting up their toy horses into a scene, having a tea party or competing in a race. It has made such a difference to our mornings!

Building a den for when they get home. I’ve surprised them with a whole magical fort for them to arrive home to after being out.

Strange sleepovers. One of the things I want to do more of is organize impromptu sleepouts in the forest and on the beach.

Sing your crazy love song. Record a song and dance declaring your love for them. (I am going to do it right now!)

Through Words

  • You are my favorite five-year-old!
  • I love your insides and your outsides!
  • I love you from your toes to your nose!
  • You are a precious treasure to me.
  • I love you no matter what you do.
  • I love you more than all the stars in the sky/ sand on the beach/grass in the meadow.
  • The day you were born my heart exploded in happiness.
  • Just looking at your face makes me smile.
  • Sometimes if I’m feeling sad, just thinking about you makes me feel better.
  • I want to fly a plane with a banner saying “I LOVE MY KID!”

(What are your favorite loving phrases to say to you kids? Tell us in the comments below!)

Esteemed psychologist Gabor Mate says, “Love felt by the parent does not automatically translate into love experienced by the child.”

We cannot be too deliberate in showing our children how much we love them. We want to raise children who have no questions about the extent of our love, who can count all the many ways we told them we love them. Who, when all grown-up and thinking about their childhood, can list example after example of times we showed our love beyond our diligent duty of care.

And maybe sometimes in our enthusiasm we will get it a bit wrong – a parental love song that accidentally gets put on Facebook. But you know what? No parent’s going to wish they were a little more reserved in their love, and no child’s ever gone to therapy for being too loved. I don’t think.

Read more on boosting the connection with your child on a daily basis.