He mirrors your face: Your facial expressions are more contagious to your child than the freshest virus at daycare. This is why he'll often smile when you smile or look anxious when you're afraid. This mirroring begins in the newborn period, but increases dramatically between the ages of 9 and 18 months, says Karp.
She takes her cues from you: How would your 1-year-old react to an elephant frying an egg in the kitchen? Chances are, she'd look to you. The world can be a confusing and surprising place for your little one, and she uses your reactions to make sense of it. She loves you and trusts your opinion.
He copies your behavior: Does your little guy try to open the door with your keys? Does he "fix" his hair in the mirror, just like you? "They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery – but for toddlers, it's also a sincere form of respect and love,"
She engages with you: The back-and-forth that started during babyhood is much more sophisticated now. Your toddler wants to answer your questions, witness your reaction to what she's doing, and tell you (in her own way) about her ideas. Known as reciprocal social attention, this is a sign of your toddler's attachment and confidence in you.
He uses you as home base: In a new environment, your toddler may alternate between exploring and running back to snuggle in your lap. It's a sure sign of trust and attachment, says psychologist. You're a safe, reassuring place for him to return to.
She turns to you for rescue: You're walking through the park when a big dog runs up to your toddler. She raises her arms for you to pick her up and hold her close. She trusts you to help her, and that's a way of showing love, says parent educator.
He seeks comfort from you: Your toddler may hold out his hand so that you can kiss his boo-boo, or he may cry for you to cuddle him after he trips on the front steps. He knows he can count on you for comfort, and he trusts you enough to let you know when he needs it.
7 signs that your preschooler loves you
She acts up: You turn away to chat with a friend on the playground and your preschooler starts grabbing toys and throwing sand. If she doesn't have your positive attention, she'll take negative attention over nothing at all. "I call this the law of the soggy potato chip,". "In your child's eyes, a soggy potato chip is better than no potato chip." Frustrating as it can be, this behavior is another sign of how important you are to your child.
You're his role model: As in toddlerhood, your child likes to copy exactly what you do – but this modeling has become more advanced. You'll see him "making an important call" while hammering away at his "computer" or even cursing while driving his ride-on car (oops). "To your child, you are a rock star,"
She makes verbal declarations of love: Finally! At 3 or 4, many children begin to express their love with actual words. You may hear "I love you, Mommy" or "Your skin is so soft" or even "I want to marry you and be together forever." They all mean the same thing.
He comforts you: Your preschooler may surprise you with his empathy. Perhaps he offers you his special blanket when he sees you in tears or gives you a kiss when you hurt yourself. He's aping how you treat him when he gets hurt or upset. This is partly a survival technique. You are your child's world, and he doesn't like that world disrupted, so he's trying to set things right. But it's also pretty darn loving.
She tries to hurt you with words: Love shouldn't hurt, but when it comes to our kids, sometimes it does. If you disappoint your preschooler or hurt her feelings, she may lash out with an insult like "Mommy's a poophead" or even the dreaded "I hate you!" It's not fun to hear, but – yes, really – it's more evidence of how much your child cares for you. "An insult is a more concise way of saying, 'You matter so much to me that you can make me more upset than anyone else, so I want to hurt you back.'"
He gives you gifts: You may receive a flower plucked from the front yard, a sparkly rock, a crayoned self-portrait. Your preschooler's funny and touching gifts are a way for him to show you that you're special.
She celebrates your return: After time apart, your preschooler is likely to give you the VIP treatment, hugging you and showing off her accomplishments. Bonus: This will happen even if she was screaming when you left!