There’s a good chance you’re at least vaguely familiar with the term “love language,” a phrase used to describe the five different types of attention and affection each person craves.

The notion of love languages was born out of the bestselling book The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts, written by Gary Chapman, Ph.D. Here, Dr. Chapman outlined five distinct ways in which individuals express their love toward one another…and how they want to be loved. Those love languages are…

  • Affirming words

  • Quality time

  • Physical connection

  • Acts of service

  • Giving and receiving gifts

While folks often have a mix of love languages, the theory is that everyone tends to favor one of these love languages over the others. (If you’re unsure what your love language is, you can take an online quiz to help you figure it out.)

And even though the love language concept was created for couples, knowing your child’s love language can be super-helpful when it comes to parenting, too! Intrigued? Keep reading to figure out your child’s love language—and how to use it to make them feel treasured.

Words of Affirmation

The “words of affirmation” love language is all about using, hearing, and reading encouraging language. (So for a “words of affirmation” parent, these parenting affirmations for tough days are likely right up your alley.)

If your child speaks this love language, chances are they’re quick to dole out the niceties and seek out reassurance they’re loved by pursuing compliments. These kids especially love to show you what they did so they can bask in your praise and approval.

Here are some ways you express words of affirmation to your child:

  • Give praise. Skip the vague “good job” praise, though. Instead, learn how to really fill your child’s heart with warmth with these tips, and get inspiration from these compliments designed to buoy a child’s resilience.

  • Write lunchbox notes. Slide words of affirmation into your bub’s lunchbox or stick sweet Post-It notes on their mirror.

  • Offer apologies. Learning to say “I’m sorry” to your child is a powerful skill that “words of affirmation” kids wholeheartedly appreciate.

  • Gossip! Once your child is 15 to 18 months old, whisper little compliments about the good things they've done to your partner, a stuffed toy, the dog, or anyone! Pediatrician Dr. Harvey Karp calls this gossiping. “Not only do folks tend to believe things they overhear, but when comments are whispered like a secret they believe them even more!” says Dr. Karp.

  • End the day with bedtime sweet talk. “Right before your little one drifts off to sleep, fill their sleepy mind with gratitude for all the wonderful things they did that day,” says Dr. Karp. Bedtime sweet talk nurtures their sense of optimism about all the things they may do and experience tomorrow.” Simply recount some of your bub’s fun experiences and acts of kindness from the day and list a few things that might happen tomorrow.

Quality Time

Quality time is when you give (or receive) undivided attention. In other words, watching Netflix with your partner on opposite ends of the sofa is not “quality time.” Turning off The Crown, silencing your phones, looking at each other, and talking, is!

If you’re a parent whose love language is “quality time,” you likely adore things like family game night, special dinners out, and long walks peppered with sweet conversation. Kids who share this love language crave undivided attention, too—which means no phone, no work emails, and no distractions on your end. You might hear things like  “Can we play together?” and “Read to me!” a whole lot. You may also get an earful of complaints regarding how busy or distracted you are (“You’re always working!” or “Can we leave the baby home?”)

Here are some tips for maximizing quality time:

  • Have designated screen-free time. Pick a slice of time during the day (and always during meals) when you are officially off your phone and computer. Silence your devices and dedicate that time to interacting and playing with your child.

  • Check in! Even if your kiddo is happily playing in the other room, poke your head in and offer a smile, a compliment, or a pop-in play session. “If you notice your child gets frustrated when you spend more than 30 minutes on a task that’s unrelated to them, try taking a 5-minute break to play,” suggests Dr. Karp, bestselling author of The Happiest Toddler on the Block. “Get on the floor on their level and let them direct play.” When your time is up, tell your tyke you’ll play again soon, but you just need to finish what you’re doing first.

  • Offer “just you and me” time. While doing things as a family is wonderful, when “quality time” is your tot’s love language, it’s a good idea to carve out sibling-free togetherness when you can.

  • Feed your tot’s meter. “Any time you take a second to connect with your child, you’re feeding the meter,” says Dr. Karp. “Even looking at them while you’re cooking dinner, making a silly face to make them laugh, or pulling them in for a sweet hug counts.” Don’t think of these small bites of attention as replacing longer spells of spotlight time! Instead, think of them as attention snacks to keep your bub’s heart full!

  • Let your child lead. When you can, allow your child to cruise-direct your day together. Say something like, “I can’t wait to spend the afternoon with you! Would you like to have a picnic in the park, or should we build a tower?”

Physical Connection

Hugs, kisses, massage, handholding, sofa-snuggling…no matter which loving touch you prefer, physical connection is crucial for “physical touch” folks to create and strengthen their romantic relationships.

Likewise, little ones who crave physical connection may ask for hugs, reach for your hand, or invade your personal space. And they’re likely to love these tactile shows of affection, too:

  • Embrace roughhousing. Surprise: A child can resist smooches and still call “physical connection” their love language! Many kiddos prefer wrestling, tickle and pillow fights, high fives, and piggyback rides to tender touch.

  • Have pampering moments. Brush and comb your child’s hair, give a mani/pedi, offer a shoulder rub or massage, or apply a homemade oatmeal-based face mask to your little one’s face.

  • Create a snuggly storytime. Instead of reading bedtime stories on your child’s floor, move this beloved book ritual to your bed, the sofa, or a special reading nook stuffed with cozy blankets and pillows, or any place ripe for snuggling.

  • Build touch into the routine. Start each day with a good morning smooch. Piggyback your tot to the bathroom for teeth brushing. Create a secret handshake for school drop off. End each night with a bear hug.

  • Play physical games. Engage in a fun round of This Little Piggy, tag, Twister, Duck Duck Goose—you can even drive toy cars or walk stuffed toys on your kiddo’s body!

Acts of Service

This is the “action speaks louder than words” love language! Essentially, the “acts of service” love language is all about doing something for others because you know they’d enjoy or appreciate it.

As a parent, your whole life is dedicated to acts of service for your kids, so it can be a bit tricky to figure out if this is your child’s love language. Some clues your kiddo responds to acts of service include asking you to help them learn a new skill, like tying their shoe—or for help completing a project. Or maybe they ask you to do something they’re perfectly capable of doing themselves, like fluffing their pillow or pulling their blanket down for night-night. While there’s no need to jump at every request, you can help speak your child’s love language in these easy ways: 

  • Pitch in with chores. Children whose love language is acts of service love help around the house! Go ahead and assign tasks to your tot (here are 30 age-appropriate chores to choose from)—and then pick a few that you complete together.

  • Help them hurry. When you’re running late, resist the urge to bark “hurry up!” Instead, jump in to assist your child to finish getting ready so you can both get out the door more quickly.

  • Include their favorites. Whether you’re packing a lunch, planning dinner, or out at a restaurant, make a special point to let your child know that you’ve either made one of their favorite foods or you spotted something they’d love on the menu. Think: “I know you love cheese, so I sprinkled it on your broccoli” or “Oh! They’ve got clam chowder here. Your favorite!”

  • Do random acts of kindness together. Work together to brainstorm a list then spread the cheer as a family! Need help coming up with ideas? Borrow some from Playful Notes.

  • Express gratitude. When a child’s love language is “acts of service,” they also love to be at your service! Anytime your little one helps put away the dishes, holds the door for you, or picks up something you dropped, let them know how much you appreciate their help! 

Gift Giving

This love language is not about acquiring things! Instead, “gift givers” show one another that they listen and remember others likes and desires through thoughtful and personalized presents.

Kids love gifts—that’s a no-brainer. What sets those apart who see gift-giving and receiving as their love language is that they adore a tangible expression of love, not necessarily a flashy gift. That means, your bub will love the shell you found for them at the beach just as much as the toy they mentioned wanting a week ago.

Some hints that gifts are your child’s love language: They note how beautiful presents are wrapped and remember who gave them which gift months or years after the fact. They may have a hard time getting rid of gifts they’ve been given, even if they don’t use them anymore. Here, some not-so-spendy ideas to speak your tykes love language:

  • Start a star chart. Like wrapped gifts, a sticker or star chart is a concrete way a child can feel valued, notes Dr. Karp. (It works best for kids who are 2 and older). To put one in action, pick three behaviors to reward: Two your child already does and one they’re not doing. Explain the three things you want your bub to do each day and that they’ll get a star each time they do one. “Give bonus stars for special cooperation,” says Dr. Karp. “Ask your child what their special little reward should be for every 10 stars earned.”

  • Display gifts given. With this love language, your bub loves to receive and So, when your child gifts you something—from a salt dough craft to a thrift store necklace—be sure to offer lots of thank-yous and proudly display, wear, or use their thoughtful present.

  • Make special gifts. A homemade present really is from the heart! Just as your little one offers you macaroni necklaces, heart-shaped rocks, and family portraits made in crayon, you too can get creative! Stash an origami crane in their lunch box, place a wildflower bouquet on their nightstand, or make a popsicle stick frame for your tot’s favorite photo to hang in their room.

  • Turn experiences into gifts. Instead of simply telling your child that you are, say, going to the beach, heading to Disney, or road tripping to see the cousins, wrap up the idea! You can choose to gift wrap clues (jar of sand, Mickey Mouse Mad Libs, a Hot Wheels car) or a fun thing your child can use en route or at the experience itself (goggles, Minnie Mouse ears, a travel toy).

  • Keep a stash of treasures. Have a small pile of just-in-case gifts on hand for when your little one needs a little extra pick-me-up. Don’t go overboard! Instead, stock up on things like coloring books from the dollar store, silly socks from the bins at Target, a page of stickers, and a toy from the toy vending machine in front of the grocery store.

Bottom Line on Children’s Love Languages

It’s really important to note that children need all the love you have to offer—no matter their love language! That means, each child deserves to hear “I love you” often. They need special uninterrupted time with you and to get squeezed and kissed on the regular. All children crave your guidance and help. And, yes, everyone loves a good gift, too!


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Disclaimer: The information on our site is NOT medical advice for any specific person or condition. It is only meant as general information. If you have any medical questions and concerns about your child or yourself, please contact your health provider.