What nicknames do you have for your children to show them love?

With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, we wanted to talk about the terms of endearment that we use with our children. So, why are we interested in words? The answer lies in the fact that language is a fundamental means of expressing affection, and the ability to communicate is precisely one of the most important skills that develops during the first three years of life. Here on the blog, in a few weeks we’ll be sharing with you a series of posts on the importance of talking to children for their present and future development.

But before we get to the more serious posts, and as an introduction to the topic of language, today we’d like to tell you about the results of an informal survey of our friends. The First Steps team asked people from different corners of the planet about the terms of endearment they use in their countries or cultures to express affection for their little ones. We’d like to share with you a sample of what we found. We made an attempt to organize the terms of endearment into categories. Note that the terms used are often preceded by the possessive pronoun “my.”

Food

  • Belgium and Quebec: my cabbage
  • Greece, Turkey and Cyprus: my sweet turnover/empanada (boureka or börek)
  • The United States and the United Kingdom: honey, sweetie pie
  • Quebec: my little egg

Celestial objects

  • Latin America and Germany: my angel, my heaven

Attributes

  • Latin America and Indonesia: fatty, little one, cutie, baldy
  • New Zealand and the United States: sweetheart, sweetie
  • Japan: little one
  • Ashaninka: pretty, precious

Objects of value/the monarchy

  • Belgium and Catalonia: my treasure
  • Latin America, Catalonia and Pakistan: my king/my queen, my prince/my princess

Casual names

  • Norway and the United States: my little buddy
  • Catalonia: little thing

Sentimental names

  • Saudi Arabia, Latin America, United Kingdom, Belgium, Pakistan: my heart, my love, my life

Plants and animals

  • Quebec: little wolf
  • Latin America, Italy and Quebec: little flea, chick
  • Germany: little mouse
  • Catalonia: little bug, tadpole
  • Quechua: little sprout

Family members

  • Argentina and Paraguay: mommy, mom, daddy, dad

Not-so-lovey-dovey names

  • Uruguay: little monster, little devil
  • Quechua: my dirty little hiney

Honestly, we have to admit that it was a lot of fun collecting this sample of loving nicknames. Some of them are pretty funny when they’re translated into English! Even so, terms of endearment—though different, perhaps, from what we’re used to—exist in all languages.

Pat Engle, a wonderful woman whose contributions have been vital to early childhood research and public policy, used to begin her presentations by reminding us that “to thrive, every child needs good nutrition and health, opportunities to learn and the love of at least one person.” And so, looking at the spectrum of loving nicknames in our collection—from cabbages to little buddies—we’re reminded that human beings are infinitely diverse, as shown by our thousand and one ways to express love.

What nicknames do you use to show your love for your children? Tell us in the comments below or on Twitter using #IDBLove.

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