Gesture Imitation
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Gesture Imitation

  • PDF

One of the most important ways children learn is through imitation - especially by mimicking the words and actions of their loved ones.

One form of imitation is called gesture imitation. This skill serves as an important foundation for language development and social skill building. Children learn gesture imitation before they learn sound/word imitation (which we'll describe further in our next lessons).

For now, we'll be covering how to help your child master some important gestures, including: waving goodbye, clapping hands, opening their mouth, placing their hands over their head, and shaking their head back and forth.

Helping Your Child Imitate Waving Goodbye

Waving goodbye is one of the earliest language skills that a child learns - and also one of the most important. To encourage your child to wave, start with some guided practice. Place your hand over your child's hand, helping guide them through the motions. Make sure to do this at the appropriate time and place. For example, are you leaving their grandparents house? Wave goodbye! Is mom or dad heading out to run some errands? Wave goodbye!

Gradually, as your child becomes more used to this repetitive movement, you can begin to move your hand away when it's time to wave goodbye. For some added encouragement, you can still wave goodbye as a visual cue, but let them imitate your movements on their own.

This gesture will become more meaningful as your child begins to understand when to use it during social interactions. Overtime, as they mimic your repetitive movements, they'll begin using them completely unprompted.

Clapping Your Hands

We routinely clap our hands to show excitement, appreciation, and praise. Just like waving goodbye, start by placing your hands on your child's and guiding them through the gesture. Overtime, your hand support should gradually fade, allowing your child to perform the action on their own. This gesture is an important way for your child to celebrate their excitement for fun activities.

Additional Gestures to Imitate and Practice

Other gestures that can be useful for language development and daily living include:

  • Imitating Opening Their Mouth: Teaching your child to open their mouths when appropriate or when asked can be helpful for all sorts of activities, especially brushing their team. It also promotes imitating mouth movements that are necessary for developing speech sounds.

  • Imitating Hands Over Their Head: Once a child learns this useful gesture, they'll more easily be able to raise their arms in the air when getting dressed and putting on a shirt, or trying to get someone's attention.

  • Imitating Shaking Their Head Up and Down and Side to Side: Teaching your child this gesture imitation will help them respond "yes" or "no" more easily.

Once your child is able to imitate gestures, they will be ready to participate in other types of gestures, such as playing games like Peek-a-boo and Happy As You Know It, as well as blowing kisses, building blocks, and more. Just remember, strong imitation skills lead to strong language and social skills.

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