What Is Imitation Communication and Why Is It Important?
By Sholeh Shahinfar MA, CCC-SLP, RYT
As a parent or professional working with little ones, I am sure that you have noticed how much children love to mimic what we say and what we do. Sometimes, we wish they wouldn’t copy everything we do and say, but when it comes to speech and language development, I encourage kiddo’s to copy me all day, every day!
Using imitation to teach speech and language skills is a great way to nurture your child’s language development. The great thing about teaching imitation skills is that it is not just for verbal language, it can be used for nonverbal language skills too, such as actions, body movements, and facial expressions!
Whenever I have parent coaching classes, I always think of tips to give parents that are functional, meaning they can be done anywhere, anytime and require little to no prep and planning time and imitation encompasses all of this! Imitation is something parents and professionals can do anytime, anywhere and it is actually one of the biggest and best supports for your little one’s communication skills and overall development.
What is imitation?
Imitation is a strategy that includes the mimicking of words, sounds, actions and facial expressions and is a precursor to your little one’s language development. When we use verbal imitation skills, it shows our little ones how words connect to actions and behaviors, which helps children make associations between words.
Imitation can begin as early as 8 months old when a child imitates a gesture like clapping hands. Around 18 months of age, children begin imitating simple actions they see adults do (like pretending to talk on the phone), and when they are 36 months, children begin imitating more complex actions (like pretending to cook a meal). There are several types of imitation, including: gross motor imitation (clapping hands), play imitation (pretending to drive a car), and sound imitation (imitating animal sounds). Teaching reciprocal imitation skills at an early age not only helps your little one develop verbal communication skills, but it also helps support play skills, joint attention, and social interaction skills.
How do I work on imitation with my child?
You can work on imitation in the car, at home, at the park…basically you can work on imitation skills wherever you and your little one are together! The best is if you can get face-to-face with your child and maintain eye contact, this not only supports your kiddo’s communication skills, but it also works on joint attention which is a critical skill for language development.
When you are engaged with your little one and they are motivated, the more likely they are to imitate you, so picking something of high interest to your little one and/or following their lead is super important. When you have your kiddo’s attention, imitation usually follows. Try singing songs, being animated, and using high affect to keep your little one engaged. Another great tip with imitation is not only can your child imitate you, but YOU can imitate YOUR CHILD too. Mimic their gestures, facial expression and sounds!
Why is imitation important for my child’s development?
Imitation is an important skill for typically developing children, as well as children with Autism Spectrum Disorder and other developmental differences. Since imitation skills are an early developing skill, it is no surprise that early intervention is key for targeting this very important skill. Imitation skills are one of the precursor to your little one’s language abilities, social communication skills, and overall development.
Imitation is a crucial aspect of your little one’s development. It allows your little one to learn new things quickly by watching what is going on around them. Strong imitation skills provide a way for your little one to learn about themselves and others, and opens up endless opportunities for learning! For guidance specific to your child, please contact us today at [email protected] or by calling us at 949.929.9248 to set up a complimentary consultation.
Sholeh Shahinfar, MA, CCC-SLP, RYT
Sholeh Shahinfar is the founder of Valued Voices, and a licensed Speech Language Pathologist, Child Communication Specialist and Certified Oral Motor Therapist. She is passionate about uplifting children’s voices in the world and inspiring self-expression. In her free time, she loves going to the ocean, exploring nature with her pup Kobe, and spending time with her family and friends!