||Opening your arms wide, say, “Big!” Pause and look directly at the infant. Repeat. When he imitates this action, say, “You did it!”
Playing “copy me” games supports observation and imitation as a way of learning.
Infants have an amazing capacity to learn. Not only do they learn at an incredibly rapid pace but they are constantly learning like sponges, absorbing all that’s around them. This can be a scary thing. Not only because as adults we can’t even hope to learn as much in a day or month or year as infants do, but because we are the ones that they are learning from. As parents or caregivers, we are the primary influences in an infant’s life. They watch everything that we do (even the things we wish they didn’t). This puts us in a position of great responsibility. We are their guides to this world, teaching them how they can interact with their environment as well as with those around them. Thinking about our everyday lives, if we were more conscious that we were being watched and our actions were being analyzed, would that change our behaviours? Are we acting as the models that we’d like to be?
Now my intent is not to stress everyone out because we’re not perfect. No one is, myself included. Fortunately one of the other things we know about child development is that in order for an infant to truly learn something, they must see it (or hear) it many times over. So it’s not what we do all the time, but rather what we do most of the time that counts. We all have our moments.
As surprising as it can be when we see ourselves reflected through the words or actions of a young child, it’s also wonderful. Who doesn’t smile when they see and infant pick up a purse, wave and say “bye” or hold a baby doll to their chest as if trying to breastfeed. What a wonderful peek into the adults that they will become.