Very early on, almost from birth, babies love to copy you. It’s part of learning to communicate. By responding to your baby and playing games, you can really help develop the bond between you. Copying games with your baby will also help to promote his physical, social, emotional and cognitive development.
The way that a baby develops socially is very much dependent on how they are responded to. If babies have got very receptive and involved people around then they learn to be more animated. Give your baby lots of smiles, claps and praise, and he will be happy and is far more likely to repeat what he did again. So it’s very important that everybody around your baby is enthusiastic and has a lovely warm approach.
Magic mirror neurons
Scientists think that our brains contain so-called mirror neurones. These brain cells will fire and activate simply by watching a person do a particular task, eg banging a drum. It is thought that these mirror neurones enable babies to learn by watching and imitating.
Imitation and physical development
Babies learn by imitating – they see you do something and it is an inbuilt reaction for them to do the same thing. Babies enjoy and need repetition and with practice they learn lots of new physical skills.
Imitation and communication
Games where babies are able to copy you are really lovely because they start mimicking at a very, very early age. So it’s really nice to tune in and have that real face-to-face experience where you do something and your baby copies you and then you do it again.
When your baby starts to babble it will be very natural for you to copy the lovely noises he makes. So if he shrieks and or goes ‘Dadada’ you can, and probably will, instinctively copy him and this helps him to begin to learn language. This is another example of early communication where babies learn to take turns and have a ‘conversation’.
Games to play
With a newborn baby, cradle him so you are looking face to face. If you stick your tongue out you will see him copy. Even a baby that has recently been born is able to imitate and will slowly poke his tongue out back to you.
As your baby gets a bit older he will copy your smile, blow raspberries and even clap as his gross motor skills improve. He will get a real kick out of your response and this will encourage him to keep trying.
The first time he encounters a new game, toy or activity it will help if you can lead by example. So, if you would like your baby to pop bubbles, first get your partner to blow some bubbles. Then you can pop the bubbles saying, ‘Pop, pop, pop!’ each time you pop one, so your baby gets the idea. You will be amazed how quickly he will pick up new games and skills when you lead by example.
In giving a running commentary of what you are doing or saying, you will give your baby more information about what you are doing or what you are trying to do. He will begin to understand your actions when you use words frequently, such as, ‘push’, ‘drop’, ‘bash the drum’, ‘clap hands’, and so on.