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by: Mimi Brian Vance, Words by the Handful

I opened the gift not knowing what to expect. It was a small box – light as a feather. What I found inside is more precious than gold.

Three words:

I Love You.

From my mother.

Not written on fancy paper, not recorded on a special talking card that I could hear, but in her own hand. Literally. A sign.

Then I remembered she’d called me a week or so earlier asking me how to make the sign for “I Love You” with one hand. I explained it to her and then she quickly got off the phone, saying she was off to an art class on wire sculpture.

I picked up the most delicate wire sculpture of my mother’s hand making the sign for “I Love You”. For me. Forever.

How awesome is that? Best gift ever!

The next day at preschool, there it was again! This time it was a boisterous kindergartener. He jostled his way into class, but at the last minute, turned and called to his mom. When she looked over, he flashed her the “I Love You” sign. Just a quick, quiet message between the two of them. As they say: priceless!

Later, I caught his 4 year-old brother sharing the sign with his mom. That’s one lucky mom!


Here how you do it: The American Sign Language (ASL) sign for “I Love You”:

Make a fist, then extend your thumb, your index finger, and your pinkie finger. It’s called the “ILY” sign: a combination of the ASL manual alphabet letters “I,” “L,” and “Y.”

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Want the other version?

Point at yourself.: I

Cross your arms and put closed fists against your chest: LOVE

Point at the person you’re talking to: YOU

Can a baby or toddler do this sign? In their own way – yes. And as their fine motor skills improve, you’ll see them work to get those little fingers to cooperate even more.


You can’t say it enough, and it’s something we never tire of hearing.

Spread the love around – – say it and sign it often!

(And thank you, Mama! I love you, too!)

Click here to learn more about Baby Sign Language classes at The Motherhood Center.

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