You and your baby: imitation

Your infant learns from imitation. Learn how to play imitation games with your child.

From an early age, babies begin to mimic and imitate the behavior of those around them. When infants learn to imitate their parents’ and caregivers’ actions, they are forming important social interaction skills and learning how to problem solve.

Imitation allows your baby to learn new behaviors. For example, an infant may watch their older sibling banging a drum and then start banging their rattle on the drum also, even though the infant does not understand the function or original act. Such actions will lead to new discoveries.  Imitation plays an important role in the growth of an infant’s mind and indicates new understanding.  

Michigan State University Extension encourages parents of infants to try playing imitation games with their very young babies such as:

  • Poking your tongue out
  • Opening your mouth and eyes wide
  • Moving your head from side to side
  • Opening and closing your fist while your baby watches

These imitation games provide your infant with exciting stimulation. Whether or not this interaction leads to your baby imitating you, the interaction is rewarding for both of you and will help generate new connections in your baby’s brain.

According to University of Wisconsin-Extension, it is also important for you to imitate your baby and respond to your baby’s sounds and actions. When your baby makes sounds, repeat the sounds back to your baby. Your imitation excites your baby and may cause them to repeat the sounds. If you listen, you may hear certain tones of voice and sentence patterns in your child’s babbling.       

When your baby imitates the behavior of those around them, it is an indication their mind is becoming more and more sophisticated. Babies are communicating and learning every time they mimic or imitate an action. When your baby is able to imitate your actions and respond to you, it lets you know your baby can understand and predict the behavior of others.  It is also a sign your baby has learned important things about the relationship between themselves and other people.  

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