Copying observed action encourages social and emotional skills.
Imitation begins very early in an infant’s life. Young children learn socially from older children and adults by copying them. Imitative play is a fundamental part of learning; young children watch adults and then copy them extensively. Throughout their early years children are learning to adapt to the cultural world into which they have been born. Imitative play allows children to experiment with the cultural tools and behaviour that they have observed. Children try to use laptops, phones and any other electronic device available to them because they have seen adults using and interacting with these devices. Young children’s manual dexterity and hand and eye coordination is well adapted for using mobile phones and other devices. Children can benefit from having replica items available, such as an infant laptop or an imitation mobile phone. These electronic items can enhance manual skills, hand and eye coordination and spatial skills.
Imitative play requires children to observe and copy other’s behaviour. Sometimes children watch another child performing an action but don’t copy the action immediately. Lots of imitative play occurred in our nursery school study where we observed children playing with VTech toys. Children learn through observing and copying others. Young children watch other children and observe the consequences of actions without having to perform the actions themselves. This can help with social and also motor skills. A young child in our nursery study watched another child press a button on a toy to play some music and then jig up and down. After wandering off the young child who had observed the jigging returned to the toy pressed the button and began to jig up and down to the music. Children learn from each other as they play. Imitative play allows for lots of repetition which is also a valuable learning activity.