myNDNA: Early years and childcare tips

View our latest childcare tips below, written by early years experts.

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Coronavirus disclaimer - Legislation and policy guidance change regularly. It is the responsibility of the setting to review the latest COVID-19 guidance from the Government when undertaking these top tips.

The benefits of imitation in supporting early language

A big part of language development for young children is actually learned by imitation; by listening to, watching and interacting with others, copying and mirroring their actions, gestures and spoken words.

Imitation is an in-built skill children have from birth. They have to be able to imitate in order to learn. Learning to speak requires a great deal of imitation and a lot of practice which children gain through conversations. You only have to listen to what they say as they get older to hear yourself perfectly replicated by your three-year-old! (Di Chilvers, 2010)

Baby copying practitionerHere are some top tips for supporting early language development through imitation: 

  • Position yourself face-to-face with children on their level
  • Where possible, maintain eye contact with children to help develop concentration skills. For younger children, try holding an interesting object or toy to keep their gaze and attention
  • When speaking to children speak slowly and clearly
  • Give children time to respond
  • Use a varying tone and pitch to emphasise words and to make speech interesting for young children to tune into, e.g. "wow, that is ENORMOUS!” 
  • Imitate children as well as encouraging children to imitate you, e.g. copy children’s sounds and actions
  • Provide lots of opportunities for children to listen, talk and take turns. Small group times provide a good focussed opportunity for this
  • Sing repetitive, fun songs which children can copy and join in with.

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