Maybe you already know all about the Five Love Languages in the context of romantic love. But are you well-versed in how they apply to your children? Whether you’re a pro or this is the first time you’ve heard those words strung together, we are here to enlighten you. The concept is easy enough to grasp — people have different ways that they receive and give love best. And since holiday gifts are a time-honored expression of love, knowing your child’s love language could help you pick the perfect gift for them this year.
First, a brief recap of what we’re talking about. Dr. Gary Chapman first came up with the Five Love Languages in his 1992 book, but then enlisted the help of Dr. Ross Campbell to apply the exact same categories to children: physical touch, words of affirmation, quality time, gifts, and acts of service. According to their theory, if you express love in a way that appeals to your child’s love language, they hear it better and feel more loved. This is important not just because we want our children to know we love them, but because when they feel loved, they’re better able to function and behave in other aspects of their lives.
In terms of gifts and toys for kids, when we give an extra cuddly stuffed animal to a child whose love language is physical touch, it will make them feel like you get them. If we give that stuffy to a child whose love language is acts of service, they may leave it on the shelf in a few days and forget all about it. Then again, gifts are often all in how they’re presented, so if you get that same stuffy for your acts-of-service kid and then spend time building a cardboard house for it and playing veterinarian, you may still earn extra service-love points.
Before we go on, you should probably figure out what your child’s love language is. Of course, it’s all in The 5 Love Languages of Children, but here’s a shortcut to figuring it out from Chapman’s website: “Ask him or her to draw or call out some ways parents love their children,” he suggests for children under age 8. “You should try not to guide their drawings or answers, limit their responses, or require more responses than what he or she is prepared to give at the time you ask. Depending on the child’s attention span and the time of day, you may get many answers, or you may get very few. If it seems like slow going, then you may want to secretly explore the subject of love with your child for a week or so until you can deduce what he or she perceives as love.”
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A version of this story was originally published in November 2020.