Imitation is a form of…flattering language development!
The skill of imitation is vital in your child’s overall development, including speech and language development. From a very young age, children will begin to imitate what they see and hear. In fact, imitation is a skill that is learned in infancy! If you stick out your tongue, you’ll notice your baby stick their tongue out back at you! If you are a mother, (or a dad, grandma, aunt, or uncle!) it’s likely that you engaged in back and forth ‘conversations’ with your baby in which you and your baby were imitating each others sounds, facial expressions and actions. Not only is doing this with a baby SO much fun but it actually helps infants learn to take turns, attend to and share emotion with their caregiver, and communicate for social reasons, rather than communicating purely for basic needs. As your baby grows, they will continue to imitate actions (e.g. pushing a car), gestures (e.g. waving hello), sounds and words! Eventually all of this imitation will lead to your child walking, talking and playing!
When your baby sticks their tongue out back at you, it is because there are mirror neurons in their brain which fire and help them to imitate what they are seeing. Mirror neurons are important for understanding the actions and intentions of other people, and for learning new skills by imitation. Every time your child imitates you, their mirror neurons are firing and forming new neuro-pathways in their brain. If your child is not imitating your words, the best thing that you can do is imitate THEM! Imitate their actions, their facial expressions, their sounds, and words. Not only will this help them to learn the skill of imitation but the act of you imitating them actually triggers the firing of mirror neurons in your child’s brain.
Hope that little science lesson helped to give you a little more insight into the role of imitation in your child’s development!