Imitating Gestures But Not Yet Words

If your child is able to imitate gestures but not yet words, you are half way there! Your child can imitate, yeah!

Common Gestures that a Child May Imitate:

  • Waving
  • High Five
  • Throwing
  • Pushing
  • Pointing
  • Walking

Below are activities that combine these gestures with words. 

Gesture Games

How To Play: Playing these gesture games is quite easy. Get your child interested and excited about one of the actions below. Once your child is imitating the gestures, start pairing each action with a word. To do this, every time you perform an action make sure to say the word. Don't put pressure on your child to reciprocate. Just model the sounds and make it fun. When your child is ready, he or she will start imitating!

Once he or she imitates the gestures AND sound, give lots of praise so he or she will want to repeat!

Example Games:


Many children will imitate waving a hand up and down. After your child is waving, pair it with "hi" or "bye." This game is the most functional and you can do this one all day long so start now!

High Five:

Have your child give a "high five." While you high five, try to pair it with these sounds/words: "ah," "five," "up," or "boom." These words are easier to form and are fun to say. Your child may eventually pair high-fives with these sounds.


Throw a ball and see if your child will copy you. Once your child gets the hang of throwing, pair it with a sound. I usually start with one of these: "wee," "up," "woa," or "bye." Again, these words are easier to say and just plain fun!


Pushing a ball or car and have your child copy. Once your child is comfortable with this, add a sound. Start with "zoom," "swoosh," "push," or "ugh" (as if you are putting a lot of effort into the task). These are different sound combinations than previously mentioned. Personally, my son loves and imitates the last one ALL THE TIME for opening doors and jars!


Parents are constantly pointing and naming objects for their toddlers throughout the day. Children usually imitate this gesture quite early. Add some different sound combinations or words so your child starts to imitate a variety of sounds. For example, you could say "look," "there," "here," or "wow" as you point to something. Encourage your child to copy by pointing and saying a word and then WAIT for a response. This may take 10 seconds or more!


Of course your child is walking but he or she may be able to imitate walking, stomping, jumping, or exaggerated footsteps. Most children find this fun. Once your child can imitate the stomping, add a word to your game. With every exaggerated step, say "boom," "walk," "jump," "bam," or any syllable you might want to target.

› Imitating Gestures