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Alice Maclaine
Child development and education expert. Qualified Montessori teacher and children’s yoga teacher – including children with special needs.
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Stage 4 – 9 months

Baby copying and imitation games

Babies learn lots of things by imitating their parents and the people around them. It's a vital part of learning to copy and communicate. You can encourage this instinct in your baby with a few fun games.
Video Tutorial
In Short
A baby’s social development very much depends on them receiving positive responses.

You can encourage this by clapping, smiling, talking and so on, and giving them time to copy you. 

Babies can mimic from a very early age – try poking out your tongue – they love to copy you. Always allow them time to respond. 

These games will help your baby talk and be sociable as they grow.

Repetition and imitation allow your baby to lay down stronger and stronger neural pathways to develop their physical development, social development, understanding and language acquisition. Copying games and imitation are at the heart of this crucial form of learning for babies.

Copying and imitation games

Babies learn lots of things by imitating the people around them. A newborn baby will even stick out their tongue in response to seeing you stick out your tongue; it’s part of learning to communicate, imitate and engage with their caregivers.

The way that a baby develops socially is very much dependent on how they are responded to. If you are receptive and spend time talking to and copying each other, your baby will learn to be more animated. If he is rewarded with a smile and a clap from you, then he will be more likely to use the same behaviour again. Each time he repeats and copies your actions and noises he is laying down neural pathways. This is why repetition, copying, and imitation are so crucial to your baby’s development. Don’t worry that your baby will be bored by playing endless clapping games or taking turns to stick out tongues or squeal. Babies know what they need to learn and are naturally drawn to copying you, looking at your face and repeating and repeating and repeating actions.

Games, where babies are able to copy you, are wonderful because babies actually start to mimic from birth. It’s lovely to tune in to what they are doing and have an intimate face to face experience where you do something and then they copy you and then you do it again. Psychologists call this turn taking ‘serve and return’ like in a game of tennis, your baby does something and you copy or you do something and give your baby the time to copy you.

Before babies can talk it’s one of the physical ways that they will communicate with you and a really crucial part of their bonding and learning. Action songs are a good way of introducing copying and imitating as it means your baby can begin to join in with the songs and rhymes they love long before they can sing the words.

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This article is for information only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions. Essential Parent has used all reasonable care in compiling the information from leading experts and institutions but makes no warranty as to its accuracy. Consult a doctor or other health care professional for diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions. For details click here.