Fun and Creative Ways to Say ‘I Love You’ to Your Child

Dr. Craig von BuseckBy Dr. Craig von Buseck9 Minutes

CVB: Your book is called 365 Ways to Love Your Child: Turning Little Moments into Lasting Memories. I have three grown children and I say, “I love you” at the end of every conversation. But I know that saying, “I love you” is more than just words. Tell us about that.

Julie Lavender: That’s right. I homeschooled all four of my children and these were ideas that I collected with them. My children are adults now as well. My husband was military and we noticed that sometimes some of the little memories that we made, the little activities, seemingly made more of an impact on my kids. When I would ask them, “What did you like best about this?” It seemed like it was the little moment. It didn’t have to be monumental to be momentous.

We might take a vacation to a park that we were close to and I would ask what they liked best. One time we went to Disney and I asked what they liked best about that. My son was seven or eight and he said the thing he liked best was jumping from one bed to the other in the hotel.

CVB: Oh yeah! That’s exciting.

Julie: The thing is we let them jump on the bed at home. That wasn’t really a problem. But in this hotel room they had two beds close together. They pretended that was the moat and there were crocodiles in there that they had to jump over. My husband and I stood between so that they wouldn’t get hurt. We took part in it and it was a wonderful, fun memory for them.

When we would take them to the park, my husband would pretend he was a big crab. He would do something funny with his hands and say, “Crabby is coming to get you.” So he would play on the playground with them. We were intentional. If we took them to a park, we didn’t just sit over on the chairs, we interacted and played games with them.

I think as parents, we can turn anything into something our kids might remember. It might be as mundane as going to the mailbox. At one of the duty stations where we lived, my kids got letters from their dad if he was gone, or from their grandparents. That was back in the days of snail mail, so to kill time, I would take the kids with me. We skipped to the mailbox one day and the next day we would walk backwards. The next day we would zigzag. I would let each child come up with something. Then when they got to the mailbox and had a letter from someone, it made it all the more exciting.

We tried to take little moments and turn them into big moments to create that family bond.

CVB: Doing it intentionally.

Julie: It was being intentional. Life is tough for these days. I think when they can fall back on that sense of belonging, when they have those family memories, they can feel like they belong and have a purpose. They were a purpose for that family and they have a bond and it’s just something they can fall back on.

I think we give them a glimpse of the Father’s heavenly love. We can say, “You know what? This is how much I love you, but God loves you so much more than that. Even bigger than I do. And I love you so big.” So we give them a little bit of a glimpse of the love of the father.

CVB: Amen. You grew up in a family that was a little bit financially strapped.

Julie: Yes. My father was a truck driver for a little while, way back so long ago before they had unions and he just drove locally. When the unions came in, he lost his job and was out of a job for a while. He did some farming and leasing out his property. My mom was a stay at home mom. So we were financially strapped.

CVB: Tell me a little bit about growing up in that environment and how that helped shape you and prepare you for being a parent. And for those who are financially strapped today, how can they still be creative in sharing their love?

Julie: I think that may be why the little moments mean so much to me because we didn’t have a whole bunch of big moments, but the little moments were great. We never ate out. We couldn’t afford it. And so my mom was just a wonderful cook, because she had to. But she would make a big deal about it every day. “I Love Lucy” came on at 10 o’clock in the morning and she would stop whatever chores she was doing and we would have a tea party. It was usually a homemade cookie that she had made. I don’t think we ever had tea. I think we had water, or juice, or an occasional soda or something like that. We all just watched that 30 minute show and then we went back about our business.

CVB: It was a ritual.

Julie: Yes, it was a ritual. So, we need to cook and prepare for our families, but we can make that special somehow. That’s not going to cost us any extra money because we’re feeding our family anyway.

One of the things I like to do was let the kids help me make biscuits and we often made it in the shape of the letter of their first name. My girls loved to play in the dish detergent bubbles, so I would fill one side of the sink with bubbles and they’d stand on a stool next to me when I worked with the dishes. So these are some of these things we need to do that are part of our daily life anyway. They don’t really cost any extra money to do those things.

Some of my kids’ favorite memories were things like having a stick race in a nearby stream. We would find sticks and make sure everybody’s stick looked different. Then we would throw them in at one end and we’d run to another place to see whose stick got there first. My kids loved doing stuff like that. My little grandson, his favorite thing to do is throw rocks in a puddle. He can sit forever and just let me hand him a rock and throw it in the public. So these things don’t have to cost a lot of money. It’s just important to spend that quality time.

Order your copy of 365 Ways to Love Your Child: Turning Little Moments into Lasting Memories by Julie Lavender