Does your toddler grab a play phone and say “Hello” just like you do or try to brush his or her hair when you do? If so, your toddler is starting to imitate what he or she sees and hears others do.
For toddlers, imitating others indicates they are starting to learn more about themselves and develop independence — a major step in their developmental progress.
Toddlers learn by watching
Toddlers learn many things by watching and copying others including:
- How to master new skills. Simply by watching you do everyday things toddlers are learning how to master new skills such as brushing teeth and picking things up.
- Speech skills. As a toddler, your child continues to repeat words he or she hears and learns how to put sounds and sentences together.
- Social skills. Watching every day conversations helps your toddler learn social skills such as greeting others, manners and taking turns when talking.
- Independence. Imitation is a stepping-stone to independence. Your toddler will start realizing, “I can do this!“ while imitating you. Your toddler is learning how to do things on his own and building self-confidence.
Do what I do
Here are some tips to encourage your toddler’s learning through imitation:
- Make safety a top priority. Toddlers have not yet developed the ability to judge what is safe or not safe. Be sure to childproof your home to prevent accidents from happening.
- Remember, they are always watching. Model the behavior you want your toddler to imitate. If you say one thing and do another, your toddler will likely learn more by watching what you do. If you tell your toddler to not use a certain word and you say that word when your toddler is around, don’t be surprised when your toddler says the word again.
- Include your toddler in daily tasks. Toddlers love to learn, copy and help. Let your toddler help you with daily tasks like putting the dirty laundry where it goes, or putting the spoons in the dishwasher.
- Give your toddler praise. If you see your toddler sweeping up his or her own spilled cereal, positively acknowledge his or her behavior. Your child has learned by watching you clean up messes and is now starting to take care of himself or herself.
- Admit when you make a mistake. Toddlers need to learn it’s OK to make mistakes and that no one is perfect, including you.
For more information, attend the class “Why I Do What I Do” to learn more about:
- Why your toddler does what he does
- How your toddler’s temperament influences how she learns
- Tips and tools to encourage your toddler’s development