As a pediatric speech language pathologist, I get this question a lot: "how do I teach my kid to say 'I love you'?". Over the years, I've collected several strategies for introducing this phrase and I thought I'd share this list with you all!
Sign language: While your little one is learning to talk, incorporating baby sign language is a great way to teach them to communicate. Use the "I love you" baby sign when you tell your kid that you love them.
Gesture: You can also use gestures while you tell your kid that you love them. Kids are often able to imitate gestures before they are consistent with copying words. I recommend pointing to yourself when you say "I", hugging yourself for "love" and pointing to your kid when you say "you!".
Sing a familiar song: If you’re a 90s kid like me, you probably remember the “I love you” song from Barney. Feel free to sing this classic song with your little one.
Remix a familiar song: Sing “If you love me and you know it…” to the tune of “If you’re happy and you know it”. You can do new actions (give a hug, blow a kiss, spin around, dance with me) or keep with the other actions your toddler usually does. However, the last line should go “If you love me and you know it shout 'I LOVE YOU!'
Pause: Say “I love you” often during the day. Once it is routine and familiar, just say “I love…..” and give an expectant look and see if your kiddo fills in the last word.
Encourage any attempt: When kids are first learning to talk or first beginning to put words together in sentences, sometimes their attempts at words can be a little hard to understand. But if you encourage your little one to try, they will get more practice! So whether your kid says “uh oo” for love you, just says “you” at the end, or you don't understand their attempt at all, give credit by saying “aw love you too!” or “you said ‘love you’!”
I hope you enjoyed these strategies! Just know that it may take a little bit before your child masters this phrase (especially if they are still learning to talk). So whether your child says "I love you" right away or your kiddo just loves hearing you sing it for now, know that your child loves you so so so much already!