Sunday, September 13
Children and Imitation
Imitation plays a large role in the life of a child. As I finished reading Sharifa Oppenheimer's book "Heaven on Earth: A Handbook for Parents of Young Children" I really came to appreciate this role and be more aware of it. Oppenheimer writes "The young child does not watch us carefully and then in a studied way choose to imitate, for instance, the tone of our voice as we talk to the cat. Rather, the young child, who is so new to life, simply lives into our actions and makes them her own. We, her parents, are the template of what it is to be human..." Maria Montessori also spoke of the way in which a young child absorbs the environment. She taught that the young child absorbs impressions from the environment thus creating themselves. Dr. Montessori said, "the child takes in his whole environment, not with his mind but with his life." When we consider this statement it really can help us reflect on the physical environment and the emotional environment our child is absorbing.
Imitation also plays a role in cognitive learning. Even we, as adults, use imitation when put in a new or different situation. Because imitation comes naturally to the child it is used in the Montessori classroom as a way to present new materials. A child learning how to use a new material, first sits at the side of the teacher and watches her use the material start to finish- how to remove it from the shelf, carry it, use it, prepare it for the next person, and return it to the shelf. The power of imitation is used successfully in this way for learning.
One final way we as parents can use imitation as an aid is found when Oppenheimer writes "A simple rule is this: if we want the child to do something, then we must do it ourselves, in order to offer him someone to imitate." So, next time we want our children to clean up the toys, brush their teeth or spend more time outside, we can be more successful if we offer ourselves to imitate.