Motor abilities develop faster than expressive language abilities (for some). Therefore, to teach imitation, it is necessary to imitate motor movements. Read on for more specific ideas.
To review, imitation is one of the most common ways children learn language and many other skills. Therefore, practicing imitation at a young age is crucial.
Imitation targets the following baby language milestones:
How to "play" will vary due to your child's unique development, growth, interests, and age. Note: Initially, have your child repeat an action. After a few repetitions or whenever you feel your child is ready, pair the action with a sound or word! If your child doesn't repeat the sound, don't worry. It is still good input for their learning.
Below are some common activities that most children will enjoy.
1 Musical Instruments: Most babies even at a very young age respond well to music and most parents have some sort of toys that plays a sound or makes a noises after being pushed, shaken, etc... So, get out some of those toys an make a noise. See if your child wants a turn to imitate your action. To challenge your child, you may push the button twice and see if your child can copy. If you don't have an instrument, don't worry! Take out an empty box or small table and bang it like a drum. See if your child can copy.
2 Uh Oh Blocks: There is nothing more exciting to a young child than a tower falling over. Therefore, this game is fun and motivating. Build 2 towers out of blocks, empty boxes, or anything you can stack next to one another. Once you have your child's attention, knock one over. Pair the action with "uh oh" if you would like. Encourage your child to knock over their tower.
3. Waving: Babies from the day they are born are moving their hands, arms, and legs around as they discover the world. Why not imitate them and give some purpose to their movements? When your child waves their hand, wave your hand back while smiling and giggling. If your child kicks a toy, kick the same toy. Of course since I'm a speech language pathologist, I suggest adding a descriptive word with each turn hoping the child will eventually repeat the word such as kick, hi, bye, boom.
4. Push a Button: Many toys these days come with buttons to push, balls to spin, and objects to push. As your child explores these toys, imitate his or her movements. Smile and be excited as you discover the toy with them. See if your child will watch you take a turn and then take a turn themselves. This is a great way to build imitation skills, joint attention, and bond with your baby.
5. Turn a Page: I suggest reading to children from birth. Infants may not pay attention to the pictures or the story always, but most children love turning pages. Therefore, take turns imitating your child turning the page and/or pointing to pictures. Imitate any sounds or other actions your child does.
The information below is very important; therefore, you will see it repeated under each imitation activity. Repetition is key, even for adults!