Imitating is a powerful strategy that children use for learning; babies as young as two or three weeks old can imitate a simple facial gesture, such as slowly opening and closing a mouth. (Meltzoff/Moore, Uni. of Washington) As they play, older infants and toddlers show much more imitation of adult behaviors. This is one reason why so many children’s toys are small versions of objects that adults use, such as play kitchens and cars.
Perhaps, this infographic helps explain why children imitate adults as they play. Kids are connecting information that they know by creating an experience, using their imaginations.
That’s what Little Sister was doing with a chunk of playdough. With a big bag of apples from a friend’s backyard tree, we made apple pie. Later, when playing, Little Sister wanted a ‘roller’ so she could make some too. She certainly didn’t have all the steps, but she remembered a few of them and rolled out the crust and put it in pan. She sprinkled some sim-nim (cinnamon) and then invited all of us to try some of her pie. We pretended to eat and told her it was yummy.
The saying “Fake it until you make it,” is advising adults to imitate. It’s such an effective learning strategy that it is used in robotics to make programming more efficient. We can promote children’s use of imitating with action songs such as the Wheels on the Bus, Hokey Pokey, etc. There are many toys for imitating and games such as Follow the Leader.
No matter what’s on the agenda for the day, likely a big part of your child’s play will be imitating some adult activity in one form or another. Combined with imagination, it’s a fun way to learn. What do you notice that your child likes to imitate?
P.S. This video shows 2 kids creating an experience as they play. Sometimes, life with kids gets so messy, the best choice is to get out the camera…