Imitation is a critical part of language development. Of course, we want our children to imitate us NOW and “say this” and “say that” when we command them to, but this doesn’t always work, and this often puts unnecessary pressure on our little ones. Instead, try imitating them! Copy your child’s facial expressions, sounds and movements…then WAIT…and see how they respond!⠀
So we know that imitation helps toddlers learn, and most interactions with your little one have opportunities for you to imitate them and for them to imitate you. Think about when you are giving your toddler a bath. Usually, there is some amount of splashing that goes on – right? Well, copy them! Imitate that splashing! You may get a little wet but that’s okay. This is a great language opportunity. Repeat the words “splash”, “wet”, “uh-oh” and “water”!
Here’s an imitation activity to try out with your little one…
When you are playing with animal toys or reading a book about animals, make their noises and see if your toddler will attempt to imitate you! “Moo, baa, meow!” These are great words to start with because they are simple consonant-vowel combinations and easy for our little ones to articulate early on.
It may seem like toddlers just START talking out of nowhere. But really, your child is hard at work on several prerequisite skills that must fall into place first! One of those important pieces is IMITATION. Typically, your child must be showing the ability to imitate you before words emerge.
But let’s back up – this starts way before imitating whole words! First, he/she should be copying your motor movements (eg., stomping like a dinosaur, clapping hands, pointing, blowing kisses, sticking out tongue, etc). Later, he/she begins to copy your sounds and then words.
To work on imitation, first try imitating your child! If he throws a ball, you throw it. If he pushes a car, you push one too. This should encourage some back and forth imitation between you both. Also, practice lots of songs and nursery rhymes that have hand gestures to accompany the words!