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.

7 comments:

Patty said...

thanks for the post--i read it at a very timely point! love your blog, I'm a new reader...

Gypsy said...

Great post on a very important and often overlooked subject. Imitation is such a huge force for young children ... I think it makes parenting a really scary job when you realise how much of the way you are your children absorb. Steiner teachers talk about children imitating our 'inner' and our 'outer being' -- I've written more about it here .. if you are interested ;)http://domesticallyblissed.blogspot.com/2009/07/imitation-and-inner-work.html

Susanne said...

I love your post. Especially the part about giving children someone to imitate. Thank you for the reminder :)

Anonymous said...

I also appreciate the gentle reminder about giving children someone to imitate. Your entire post was wonderful-- thank you!

Swapna Raghu Sanand said...

What an informative, relevant post, particularly as most parents are working to make ends meet and kids get very little attention. I was so deeply moved by the part where you talked about the quote, how a child 'simply lives into our actions and makes them her own.' It is frightening and inspiring at the same time, calls for strong resolutions from parents and thank you so much for sharing that insight.

I am new to your blog but I am going to follow every post to learn something invaluable from it. Thank you!

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Cathie said...

Enjoyed reading this post. I have a post on imitation I'd love for you to read at toddlersthroughpreschool.com. Thanks, Cathie