Building Blocks of Imitation

Speech Therapy
Building Blocks of Imitation

Development of imitation skills in children is crucial for their speech, language, and overall communication development. These skills start developing from birth and progress from basic to more complex imitations, encompassing gross motor, speech motor, and social interaction abilities.

Understanding the Development of Imitation Skills in Children: Imitation skills play a crucial role in a child's development, starting from their early months. Let's take a closer look at the milestones and prerequisites associated with imitation skills, which progress from simple to complex actions across various domains.

0-3 Months: During this stage, infants begin to exhibit social smiles and basic imitations like sticking out their tongue or opening their mouth.

4-7 Months: Babies start babbling and imitating intonation, signaling their emerging communication skills.

8-11 Months: Gross motor imitations such as clapping, pat-a-cake, and peek-a-boo become apparent. They also imitate actions involving objects like banging or pressing buttons on toys. Fine motor imitation emerges as they initiate pointing gestures.

12-15 Months: Children start pointing to body parts and objects in their surroundings. They demonstrate imitation by squeezing toys and imitating sounds and words.

15-18 Months: Imitation skills advance as children imitate words immediately after being taught by caregivers. They can imitate actions with multiple steps and recall and imitate actions observed previously.

19-24 Months: Children show progress by repeating the most important words or the last few words of a sentence. They imitate familiar routines, further enhancing their language and social skills.

Before embarking on therapy activities to improve imitation skills, certain prerequisites must be met. These include the child's ability to sit with the therapist, attend to simple tasks like dropping objects into a container, and briefly maintain eye contact.

Understanding the developmental hierarchy and prerequisites of imitation skills can guide therapists and parents in designing effective interventions. By nurturing these skills, we can support children in their overall development and enhance their communication abilities.

Stay tuned for our upcoming blog posts, where we will delve into practical therapy activities to boost imitation skills in children.

Before engaging in therapy activities to enhance imitation skills, certain prerequisites need to be met, including the child's ability to sit with the therapist, attend to simple tasks, and briefly maintain eye contact.

When teaching imitation skills, there are specific do's and don'ts to consider. Instructors or clinicians should use the instruction "DO THIS" while performing the action they want the child to imitate, avoiding the use of explicit instructions that might confuse the child.

Here are some activities to promote imitation skills in children:

  1. Imitation with objects: Provide the child with objects of interest and demonstrate actions with different objects, allowing the child to imitate the actions.
  1. Motor imitation: Demonstrate physical actions like clapping, jumping, or waving, and encourage the child to imitate these movements.
  1. Blowing: Start with blowing whistles or flutes and gradually progress to blowing bubbles, candles, and other items, as it helps develop oral motor imitation skills. 
  1. Playing a kazoo: Use a kazoo, a musical instrument that relies on vocal resonance, to promote vocal imitations.
  1. Mirror play: Have the child stand in front of a mirror and imitate the therapist's facial expressions and movements.
  1. Copycat: Take turns imitating each other's movements, sounds, or actions with the child.
  1. Sound imitation: Produce a sound or word, and encourage the child to imitate it.
  1. Puppet play: Utilize a puppet to model actions or sounds, allowing the child to imitate the puppet.
  1. Song imitation: Sing simple songs, and encourage the child to imitate the melody or lyrics.
  1. Social games: Engage in social games such as peek-a-boo, pat-a-cake, or tickling to foster imitation skills within the context of social interactions.

In conclusion, the development of imitation skills is crucial for children's speech, language, and communication abilities. By engaging in the suggested activities, following the hierarchy of skills, and considering the child's specific needs, it is possible to support and enhance their imitation skills.


"Imitation in Child Development" by Georgie S. Brusseau and Sarah H. Gueldner, Journal of Child Neurology.

"Imitation and Its Role in Language Development: An Overview" by Paul L. Harris, British Journal of Developmental Psychology.

"Imitation and Play in Autism Spectrum Disorders" by Gulsah Yilmaz, Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders.

"Imitation: A Developmental Perspective" by Andrew N. Meltzoff, Cognitive Science Society.

"Imitation and Autism Spectrum Disorders" by Antonio Narzisi, Federico Fulceri, and Filippo Muratori, Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders.


By, Ida Anna Varghese

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