‘Children are great imitators, so give them something great to imitate’- Anonymous

Let’s wait for your turn‘, I told one of the parents, who came to see me with their 16- month old. They seemed surprised and the mother asked me, ‘Why should we wait, we need to keep playing and engaging the child right?‘ I was glad, she asked me that question, because what followed was a brief discussion about turn taking and imitation in the development of communication.

Sometimes, we assume these skills are so mere that everyone is aware of it. My experience has taught me, that the more parents know about these foundational skills, the better they are at providing an enriching environment at home, which creates a positive impact in children’s learning.

Communication is a two-way street, that requires two or more individuals. To be an effective communicator, your child should be able to take turns and imitate your actions (Monkey see, Monkey do).

One day, I saw my daughter playing with her i-ball, shaking it and saying ‘tatata‘. I quickly recognized my opportunity, came over to her, picked another ball and did exactly what she did. I shook it and said ‘tatata‘. She looked at me with a smile on her face. Then, when she did it again, I waited for my turn and repeated the same. This series of turn-taking and imitation went on for a while, until I noticed that she was getting the idea of taking turns and imitating the actions and sounds. It rather felt more spontaneous. So, the next time it was my turn, I shook the ball and said ‘ba..ba..ba‘. Guess what?, she took her turn and said ‘ba..ba..ba‘. Voilà! This represents how turn taking and imitation, can teach our children new sounds, actions and words.


So, let’s take turns and imitate more. Please find below, tips and activities for turn-taking and imitation with your little ones.


  • Follow the child’s lead—Always, always remember this. This means, to follow your child’s interest, see what he/she is doing and then intervene in the action. This is what I did with my daughter, because I saw her play with the ball and I took another ball to play with her. I did not bring my own agenda to the interaction. Instead, I followed hers.
  • Be patient—Oh yes! We parents epitomize patience, so be patient in your interaction with your child. Often, it is easy to lose track when children don’t seem to respond quickly or how you want them to. Each child is different and they all need our patience and time. So, keep going at it!
  • Be realistic—I know it can be exciting to see your child imitate your sounds and actions. That doesn’t mean, if your child imitated ‘tatata‘, then you go ahead and say ‘chair‘ and expect them to do it.
  • Make it fun—The more animated and exaggerated you make the interaction, the better you can hold your child’s interest. And who doesn’t like to have fun and a hearty laugh.
  • My turn, your turn!—As children get used to the game, pat your chest and say ‘my turn’, then help them pat their chest, when it’s his/her turn.
  • Up the ante—After doing a couple of turn taking and imitation, slowly introduce the sounds or words you want them to say. Let’s spice it up and keep them interested.
  • Maintain good eye contact during interaction– Please click here for my earlier post on the same.


  • Vroom..Vroom..Car—Take a car, say ‘My turn‘, then do the action of car moving forward saying vroom..vroom. Then, say ‘Your turn‘ and place it near your child. Continue until your child begins to lose interest.
  • Tickles—Follow the above mentioned cues to take turns and laugh your heads out.
  • Jack-in-the-box— Pop up toys are a great way to take turns and do actions like clapping.
  • Waving bye-bye and blowing a kiss are simple functional activities to encourage turn-taking and imitation in everyday life.
  • Blowing Bubbles—My never-ending love for bubbles. Please click here on a detailed description of using bubbles for attention, turn taking and imitation.

These are some of the games, I do with my daughter and the children I work with. You can always identify your child’s interests and follow the above mentioned tips to make communication meaningful and fun.

The past week has been overwhelmingly busy for me at home and work. I revisit this quote every time I see my daughter, ‘Children are not a distraction from more important work. They are the most important work’– John Trainer.

We are all trying our best to be with our children, and I believe trying to do that itself makes a world of difference in their lives.







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