When imitating others, toddlers learn new skills

Your toddler is watching you! Why imitation is developmentally important

When imitating others, toddlers learn new skills

Does your toddler grab a play phone and say “Hello” just like you do or try to brush their hair when you do? If so, your toddler is starting to imitate what they see and hear 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 they hear and learns how to put sounds and sentences together.
  • Social skills. Watching everyday 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 their own and building self-confidence.

Help teach by example

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 their own spilled cereal, positively acknowledge their behavior. Your child has learned by watching you clean up messes and is now starting to take care of themselves.
  • Admit when you make a mistake. Toddlers need to learn it’s OK to make mistakes and that no one is perfect, including you.

Free parenting class

Parenting is fun and full of surprises. Do you want to learn more about parenting your child?

Register now for the free class “Why I Do What I Do” to learn about:

  • Why your toddler does what they do
  • How your toddler’s temperament influences how they learn
  • Tips and tools to encourage your toddler’s development

Learn more

Posted In Children's, Family Medicine, Parenting