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27 ways to show your kids you love them on Valentine's Day (or any day)

Haven't we all left a copy of The Five Love Languages on our partner's side of the bed at some point? (Or maybe that's just me.) According to the book's author, Gary Chapman, the five love languages are:

  • Physical affection
  • Acts of service
  • Words of praise
  • Quality time
  • Receiving gifts

While you might hope to come home to flowers after an argument, your partner might prefer you volunteer to do the dishes to show you care. According to Chapman, the key to a healthy relationship is for each person to express love in their partner's preferred love language, instead of their own.

Chapman says this concept applies to children, too. According to child therapist Megan Cronin Larson, a child's primary love language typically emerges around age three or four. While you can respond to cues from your child to figure out what his or her love language is, in The 5 Love Languages of Children, Chapman encourages parents to use all five love languages with their children, in order to lay a healthy foundation for future relationships.

Physical affection

Research shows that touch is vital to healthy neurodevelopment in infants. But the need for touch—whether a hug or a fist bump—doesn't end with infancy. Physical affection lets kids know you care, and that you will listen when they're ready to talk. But what if your child's love language is touch and you're not a big hugger?

Licensed psychotherapist and play therapist Brenna Hicks recommends parents “keep the physical touch small but consistent. [It] can be as simple as placing your hand on a child's shoulder as you pass by, rubbing their head a few times on the couch, or giving them a quick kiss on the forehead. It isn't necessarily long bear hugs."

You could…

  1. Let him sit in your lap while you read to him (or have him read to you).
  2. Give a back rub
  3. Put the couch cushions on the floor and have a WWF-style wrestling match
  4. Wash her hair
  5. Hold hands
  6. Invite her to snuggle while watching a movie

Acts of service

As parents, our lives are a never-ending blur of acts of service. How can we possibly do more? And why should we? There is a difference between responding to rapid-fire requests for snacks and help with school projects versus setting your phone aside, making eye contact, and offering to help, or taking time do something extra-special for your kid.

You could…

  1. Offer to fix a broken toy
  2. Bring your child breakfast in bed (note: plan to change the sheets after breakfast)
  3. Cook his favorite meal
  4. Cut their sandwiches into fun shapes (Kitchen scissors or a cookie cutter make it easier.)
  5. Give a manicure

Words of affirmation

Research shows we aren't actually helping when we tell our kids they're great at everything. That doesn't mean we shouldn't use praise to connect with them in a meaningful way; rather, we should be deliberate about what we say. Parents should strive to acknowledge the effort, not the outcome. For example, instead of saying “Nice job!" when your kid comes down the slide, you could say, “I noticed how hard you worked to get up the ladder."

You could…

  1. Acknowledge how hard she's working on something specific (e.g. “You're putting so much effort into practicing your cartwheels/ math problems/ being kind to your little sister.")
  2. Say “I love you."
  3. Tell her three things you admire about her
  4. Ask if he knows how lucky you feel that you get to be his parent
  5. “Catch her" being good. (e.g. “I really appreciate you doing your chores without being asked." or “You were an awesome listener at the park.")

Quality time

Experts agree, play is the optimum way to engage in quality time with young children. Says Hicks, kids “use play as their language and toys as their words. By playing with them, you learn more about them and meet their need for someone to share in their experience."

By adolescence, kids are no longer interested in playing. They are often busy with school, friends, and activities. Says Jen Harrison, mom of busy twin teens, she tries to focus completely on them in the rare moments they are together—and that this often happens in the car, which she describes as, “our best quality time."

You could…

  1. Play hide and seek
  2. Engage in pretend play
  3. Go to the library
  4. Enjoy the outdoors together; walk, hike, or go for a bike ride.
  5. Bake together. Younger children can be responsible for helping you pour ingredients into the mixing bowl with hand over hand supervision. They can also “help" by stirring a small amount of water and flour in a bowl.
  6. Have a dance party. For older kids, draw the shades first.


Receiving Gifts

As with the other love languages, the importance of the gift is not the gift itself, but the intention behind it. As Hicks explains, “You can feel very confident that a gift need not cost money or be extravagant for your child to appreciate the extension of love."

You could…

  1. Surprise her with a homemade card
  2. Inscribe your old copy of a book you enjoyed at his age and give it to him.
  3. Find an accessory or a piece of clothing you no longer wear and give it to your kids as a dress-up item.
  4. Draw him a picture
  5. Build something for her if you're handy (or brave).

No matter what love language you “speak" with your kid, Cronin Larson reminds us that our full presence is the greatest gift we can give our kids. So… put your phone down and connect with your kid, on Valentine's Day, and every day.

14 outdoor toys your kids will want to play with beyond summer

They transition seamlessly for indoor play.

With Labor day weekend in the rearview and back-to-school in full swing, most parents are fresh out of boxes to check on their "Fun Concierge" hit list. It's also the point of diminishing returns on investing in summer-only toys. So with that in mind, we've rounded up some of our favorite toys that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play. Even better, they're Montessori-friendly and largely open-ended so your kids can get a ton of use out of them.

From sunny backyard afternoons to rainy mornings stuck inside, these toys are sure to keep little ones engaged and entertained.

Meadow ring toss game

Plan Toys meadow ring toss game

Besides offering a fantastic opportunity to hone focus, coordination, determination and taking turns, lawn games are just plain fun. Set them up close together for the littles and spread them out when Mom and Dad get in on the action. With their low profile and rope rings, they're great for indoors as well.

$30

Balance board

Plan Toys balance board

Balance boards are a fabulous way to get the wiggles out. This one comes with a rope attachment, making it suitable for even the youngest wigglers. From practicing their balance and building core strength to working on skills that translate to skateboarding and snowboarding, it's a year-round physical activity that's easy to bring inside and use between Zoom classes, too!

$75

Detective set

Plan Toys detective setDetective Set

This set has everything your little detective needs to solve whatever mystery they might encounter: an eye glasses, walkie-talkie, camera, a red lens, a periscope and a bag. Neighborhood watch? Watch out.

$40

Wooden doll stroller

Janod wooden doll strollerWooden Doll Stroller

Take their charges on a stroll around the block with this classic doll stroller. With the same versatility they're used to in their own ride, this heirloom quality carriage allows their doll or stuffy to face them or face the world.

$120

Sand play set

Plan Toys sand set

Whether you're hitting the beach or the backyard sandbox, this adorable wooden sand set is ready for action. Each scoop has an embossed pattern that's perfect for sand stamping. They're also totally suitable for water play in the wild or the bathtub.

$30

Water play set

Plan Toys water play set

Filled with sand or water, this tabletop sized activity set keeps little ones busy, quiet and happy. (A mama's ideal trifecta 😉). It's big enough to satisfy their play needs but not so big it's going to flood your floors if you bring the fun inside on a rainy day.

$100

Mini golf set

Plan Toys mini golf set

Fore! This mini golf set is lawn and living room ready. Set up a backyard competition or incorporate into homeschooling brain breaks that shift focus and build concentration.

$40

Vintage scooter balance bike

Janod retro scooter balance bike

Pedals are so 2010. Balance bikes are the way to go for learning to ride a bike while skipping the training wheels stage altogether. This impossibly cool retro scooter-style is built to cruise the neighborhood or open indoor space as they're learning.

$121

Wooden rocking pegasus

plan toys wooden rocking pegasus

Your little will be ready to take flight on this fun pegasus. It gently rocks back and forth, but doesn't skimp on safety—its winged saddle, footrests and backrest ensure kids won't fall off whether they're rocking inside or outside.

$100

Croquet set

Plan Toys croquet set

The cutest croquet set we've ever seen! With adorable animal face wooden balls and a canvas bag for easy clean up, it's also crafted to stick around awhile. Round after round, it's great for teaching kiddos math and problem-solving skills as well.

$45

Wooden digital camera

fathers factory wooden digital camera

Kids get the chance to assemble the camera on their own then can adventure anywhere to capture the best moments. With two detachable magnetic lenses, four built-in filters and video recorder, your little photographer can tap into their creativity from summertime to the holidays.

$179

Wooden bulldozer toy

plan toys wooden bulldozer toy

Whether they're digging up sand in the backyad or picking up toys inside, kids can get as creative as they want picking up and moving things around. Even better? Its wooden structure means it's not an eye sore to look at wherever your digger drops it.

$100

Pull-along hippo

janod toys pull along hippo toy

There's just something so fun about a classic pull-along toy and we love that they seamlessly transition between indoor and outdoor play. Crafted from solid cherry and beechwood, it's tough enough to endure outdoor spaces your toddler takes it on.

$33

Baby forest fox ride-on

janod toys baby fox ride on

Toddlers will love zooming around on this fox ride-on, and it's a great transition toy into traditional balance bikes. If you take it for a driveway adventure, simply use a damp cloth to wipe down the wheels before bringing back inside.

$88

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