Child Development

Why Mimicry Is Important For Your Toddler And How To Use It

Wait a mimic...

Originally Published: 

Comics who do impressions are pretty hit or miss. The good ones can make you feel as if you’re in the same room with a hilariously skewed Christopher Walken or Bill Clinton. The bad ones make you feel like you’d like to leave … Right now … Check, please.

At around 16-months your kid is probably working on impressions of their own. Their main subject? You. Yeah, better go past the 2 drink minimum with this one and brace yourself. The good news though is no matter how bad your toddler is at imitating you, it’s doing wonders for their brain.

Mimicry Matters

Your kid is always watching. You probably already know that. Because there’s nothing like being scared to death by a creeping toddler silently observing you pick your nose. And while you may find it unsettling, it’s actually a good thing. Toddlers learn about the world through observation and then use mimicry to begin learning new skills. But there are additional benefits:


When your kid imitates your behavior they have an immediate empathetic response. So copying you as you groan your way through a set of sit-ups is an act of bonding. They’re putting themselves (sometimes literally) in your shoes.


This may seem counter-intuitive, but copying an activity like cooking or shaving helps instill a sense of bigness in your kid. They begin to feel a sense of power in being able to do something that you can do. Though caution should be used when enjoying their “soups”.

Language Development

Imitation is pretty much the cornerstone of language development for your kid. That’s why it’s so important for you to talk with them and around them pretty much constantly. It’s also one of the main reasons you’re encouraged to read with your kid. The exciting part comes when they start saying the words they’re hearing back to you. Because nothing will cause you to panic quicker than your kid yelling “goddammit” in the grocery store as your neighbor walks by.

What This Means For You

In all honesty, the effectiveness of your kid’s mimicry on their development all depends on you. They will only mimic the behaviors they can observe. And that puts pressure on you to be a good role model for your kid. Because they are taking in every belch, scratch, holler and good deed you do. Here are a few things to consider:

No Quiet Thoughts

As you’re going about your day with your kid, keep up a running dialogue about what you’re thinking and doing. You help your kid understand a larger thought process guides your actions this way. Which it does. Usually. Unless you’re at the horse track.

Amp Up The Respect

When you’re out in the world, you want to model the respectful behaviors you’d expect your kid to have. That means you’re not being rude to the cashier or calling the other drivers on the road the unspeakable names that they obviously deserve.

Get In A Renaissance Mood

You want to become a renaissance man. The more stuff your kid sees you doing the better. So try and tackle the small home repairs. Or maybe try a more creative project. If you don’t cook, try to jump in every once in awhile. Your kid will imitate you and understand that these tasks aren’t necessarily gendered. It also means they’ll better understand how much can be accomplished by one person.

Let Them “Help”

Imitation will often occur as you’re doing tasks around the house. You little friend will want to get in on the action. See if there is a way you can carve out some of the task for them to tackle. Can you give them the washcloths to “fold”? Is there something your kid can hit with a hammer as you’re doing some DIY? If not, make something up. But don’t chase them away.

Own Your Mistakes

So what happens if you tackle the laundry and you turn your partner’s favorite white undies pink? You admit you messed up and then you apologize. It’s important that your kid sees you make, and own, your mistakes. It helps them know that failing at a task won’t kill them. That humble, honest attitude is exactly the kind of thing you want them to mimic. Then, of course, buy your partner some new … Uh, “better”, underwear.

Yes, it might occasionally get annoying to have a mini-you wandering around doing a terrible impression of you. But it’s incredibly important for their development. And if all works out the way it should, their impression will improve to the point where they actual live better than you do.

This article was originally published on