Your Child's Brain in Week 62
From day one, you knew that your child was a little copycat—remember how he would stick out his tongue when watching you do the same? And these days, even complex tasks are no match for your little mimic. Copying your actions is still one of the most fun games for your toddler: You know by now how valuable it is for him to see you play with a toy the same way he does, how that reinforces his relationship with you. Does copying his actions elicit the same response? See what scientists have found.
What the Research Shows
In one study, researchers mimicked whatever actions one-year-olds performed. (This experiment is different from the one described in week 58, in which one experimenter exactly copied how the child played with a toy, while another next to him just waved it around and each child looked longer at the copycat researcher.) In this week's study, just one the researcher mimicked everything that each child did: If the one-year-old raised his arm, so did the researcher; if he swung his leg or kicked his foot, so too did the researcher. However the child behaved, the experimenter did the same.
Once each child caught on to what was happening, interestingly, he or she would exhibit unusual actions—wiggle a hand in a strange way or shuffle her body, as if to see all of what the experimenter was willing to copy. ("OK, take … that!") Possibly the child was thinking, "Sure, he'll copy my everyday actions, but what about ones that are out of the ordinary? What about these weird ones?" By making odd, exaggerated gestures, each child was testing whether the researchers would imitate those actions too. Of course, they did.
Week 62 Brain Booster
Aside from having just been extraordinarily fun to watch, this research shows that around this age, your child comes to understand just how alike the two of you are, and just how far you're willing to go to imitate him. Think of it like a dance-off: One dancer watches the other's moves, copies them, and adds a signature move; the other dancer mimics all of those moves, and adds his own flourish. With each round, the moves get more intense, the dancers gain a little more respect for each other, and each one is a little more wowed by how far the other will go. Likewise, copying your own child's ever-zany actions even further reinforces his trust in you and your abilities and in your relationship together.
So go ahead: Copy your toddler's actions for 10 minutes, no matter what he does. See what happens. Like the children in the study (and a good dance competitor!), he'll likely try to throw you some curveball moves, too: Shaking his head rapidly, throwing his hands in the air, etc. It's a fun, engaging, social game—and one that could have positive results down the road: "Since you've copied my actions," your child may think, "and made a such a fun game of it, I'll copy you when it's time to put toys into the toy chest." Well, one can hope, anyway.
Coming soon, look forward to: Week 63: How New Words Help Your Child Learn to Categorize
Review the most recent accomplishments: Week 61: Combining Memory and Mimicry
Curious about how else your toddler might be developing right now? Learn more about her clever brain and her growing body here: