Your child wants to learn to imitate you (and how you can help them grow up)

by Joost Nusselder | Updated on:  April 25, 2021

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Children not only imitate you as a parent, but also their older siblings. Imitation starts for your baby in the first instance as a means of communication.

Babies are not yet able to speak and as they first follow and try to understand mom or dad's facial expressions and actions, they will soon try to imitate them.

In this way your child links the intention of these actions and learns how to react in certain situations.

Little girl plays with pots and pans just like mom and dad

A little further, your little one will also be able to imitate your gestures and then he will try to repeat words. Gradually your child learns more and more, by imitating you.

I will tell you more about imitation behavior later and give you some nice tips.

Milestones for a child in short

Imitating

How do children learn from what they see? From baby to teenager

Babies and growing children learn by studying and imitating what they see from their parents. You see your baby following you and responding to emotions.

I will walk you through the stages of your child from baby to teen.

By observing and mimicking us, our little ones learn all about the world they grow up in.

As babies they first learn to interpret our expressions and to link the actions or situations that go with them, then they start to imitate our facial expressions and later on imitate our gestures.

Then language and behavior are discussed.

I'll start by telling you about the baby phase and keep going one step further.

0-1 year baby

From 0 to 12 months, babies learn to interpret intentions by reading the actions of their parents.

By imitating these, your baby will acquire more and more skills. Especially the actions that are fascinating to your child are more likely to be imitated.

After about nine months, your baby learns to assess situations from the behavior of his parents or educators and how he should respond to them himself.

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Your little one is now aware of his imitation behavior and works more purposefully. He begins to imitate gestures such as waving and clapping hands.

With this booklet your baby can learn to link and understand emotions and situations. It is an English book, but here it is all about the pictures… in which situation is baby happy and in which situation is baby sad?

Imitate emotions with baby book

(view more images)

1-2 year toddler

Your little one wants to learn as much as possible; talk, walk, run, get dressed. You are the great example for your little one and by studying you, your toddler will discover what is possible.

Your child can express his wishes and 'respond' to the wishes of others. Imitating is still their way of communicating with adults.

2-4 years toddler

Now your little one also learns to communicate with peers by imitating them. By imitating gestures and repeating words, but still in an ill-considered way.

Your toddler wants to imitate you in everything. With cooking, telephone or cleaning. This imitation behavior is not only for your little one to learn, but also because he develops socially and wants to help others.

Perhaps it would be nice to buy a stove for the kitchen table with groceries for your child, so there can be 'help' in the kitchen.

Find here my top 12 best rated wooden play kitchens for even more great options

If you are sad or another child is crying because he has hurt himself, your child would like to be comforted. He shows empathy and concern.

Your child must have a favorite doll that he can bottle feed or comfort, and cute dolls there are many to be found today.

During this development phase it becomes even more important to set your behavior as an example. Smoking or yelling near your toddler is not a good idea.

Have a positive attitude and try to be a good role model.

4-6 year toddler

Toddlers and older children imitate the people in their immediate environment in a more thoughtful, yet playful way.

At the age of four the function of imitation changes, it is now no longer a means of communication, but a means of learning.

Would you like your little one to learn to tidy up or clean up, let him sweep and mop with a nice set, for example, or give him a nice toy vacuum cleanerwhile you put the house in order.

Even if you want to teach your child sports behavior, play an educational game together now and then and show that sometimes losing can happen and that things will get better next time.

watch here 12 fun games for ages 6 to play & entertain for even more inspiration

6-12 years old schoolchild

From 6 to 12 years old, children increasingly imitate what they see outside or on the internet or TV, they become interested in professions.

Toys that match your child's interests are now more fun.

For example, in jobs in which impressive tractors, excavators and others construction vehicles in appearance. Or how animals are cared for and how things are done on the farm. Or how about playing doctor?

By looking around they become interested in certain sports or hobbies.

12-17 years teenager

The teenage years are often turbulent years when the world is getting bigger and the imitation behavior of teenagers can sometimes lead to risky situations.

Decisions about whether or not to participate with others - or to imitate others - are influenced by social information that teens take in.

Even so, the family still influences the teenager, although the social information now often weighs more heavily.

How about imitating siblings?

Nice as brothers and sisters play together and the older sibling takes on some sort of leadership role. They both learn from each other, but usually the younger child imitates the older sibling.

The younger child wants to be able to do just as much as the older child and sometimes this ensures faster (language) development.

Or, if a baby is born in the family, the older child imitates the baby to get just as much attention.

It can therefore happen that the older child, for example, starts to pee in his pants again, while he has been toilet trained for a long time.

The older child wants the same attention as before the baby was born. This sometimes makes the family situation somewhat difficult.

However, the children often stimulate and develop together. Make sure that one or the other does not let themselves be controlled and imitates everything that the other does.

Imitation tips

As mentioned before, babies start mimicking from birth. A lot of games where they can imitate you are great fun!

Follow the gestures and movements of your body or that of your child. This will encourage your little one to imitate; just to see if his behavior is useful and influences your response.

Make sure you are always aware of your child so that he can easily make eye contact with you and see what you are doing.

You can possibly raise the playpen or put your baby in the high chair with you while you are cooking.

If you imitate your child's movements, your little one will find it very funny and will enjoy this interaction immensely.

To keep the game fun, you can exaggerate your gestures, facial expressions and your voice.

Don't use too long sentences and speak in simple language. Limit your sentences to three words and speak slowly.

Repeat your words as you use gestures and expressions to show what the words mean (think "angry" or "happy").

The slower you speak, the faster your baby will repeat your words. Eye contact and pleasure play an important role.

Over time, your child's imitation behavior will continue to increase. Decide for yourself which behavior you allow and which behavior you will not tolerate.

Your child's imitation behavior can sometimes be dangerous. Maybe he sees you grabbing a cleaning solution and wants to play with it too.

Be careful with aggressive agents, knives, scissors and make sure that the drawers and cupboards can be closed properly with a child lock.

Explain well what is only suitable for 'grown up' people and also explain why.

What conclusion do we draw from learning to imitate?

The fact is that we all copy the behavior of our parents, at a very young age, but often also in adulthood.

For your child it is only natural to look for an example, a role model from which he can learn: YOU!

It is very important that you are aware of this. If you have a positive attitude, your child will also learn that attitude more easily.

The imitation process starts as a small baby, but as your child grows up, it learns more and more about your habits.

He is going to see these as 'normal', so make sure that these habits can serve as a good example!

Read also: Give compliments to your child | Expert advice & fun playing tips

Always something to do for the holidays or rainy day?

Play Choice now has the ultimate activity book collection, with over 60 pages of fun coloring pages and educational puzzles.

Joost Nusselder, the founder of Speelkeuze.nl is a content marketer, father and loves trying out new toys. As a child, he came into contact with everything around games when his mother started the Tin Soldier in Ede. Since 2016, he and his team have been creating helpful blog articles to help loyal readers with fun play ideas.