Child-led Strategies: Power of Imitation

Adapted from the article “Origin of cultural learning: Babies imitate because they are imitated” and the study: Samuel Essler, Tamara Becher, Carolina Pletti, Burkhard Gniewosz, Markus Paulus. The cultural basis of cultural evolution: Longitudinal evidence that infant imitation develops by being imitated. Current Biology, 2023; DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2023.08.084



From their first babble to their first steps, children seem to be born with the ability to pick up new skills. But have you ever wondered where this incredible power comes from? Recent research by Essler, et. al. from Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität in Germany sheds light on this phenomenon, revealing that the roots of this skill traces back to the child’s earliest days of life.

Mutual Imitation of Parent and Child

The study observed the interactions between mothers and their children over several months starting at six months. The more sensitive a mother was in her interactions with her six-month-old and the more often she imitated the infant, the greater the child's ability was at 18 months to imitate others.

This mutual imitation, it turns out, is a form of communication. Parents respond to the signals given by their child, creating a bridge between what the child feels and does and what they see. This connection lays the foundation for a child's ability to imitate and learn.

Children’s Growth

Children are incredible imitators, and this skill is their passport to a world of learning. They acquire a do many skills through imitation, from using objects to mastering gestures like waving, and eventually the acquisition of language itself.


According to Professor Markus Paulus, one of the study’s co-authors, "Imitation is the start of the cultural process toward becoming human." This challenges the long-held belief that imitation is an inborn skill, highlighting instead that it is a learned ability that forms the basis of learning.


Nurturing Sensitivity of Parents

The study underscores the crucial role of parental sensitivity. This means being attuned to a child's cues and responding promptly and appropriately.

Practical tips for cultivating the parent-child interaction:

  • Pay close attention to the child's cues.
  • Respond promptly and appropriately to their needs.
  • Engage in mutual imitation during playtime.


Celebrating the Power of Imitation

As parents, you hold an incredible influence over our children's early learning. Your interactions in the first 2 years of life lays the foundation for their remarkable ability to learn and grow. So, let's embrace our role in shaping the future of our young learners by harnessing the the super power of imitation.

Remember, every interaction is a moment of learning. Embrace it with love, curiosity, and a sense of wonder. Together, we're nurturing the next generation of learners!

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published