Babies, toddlers, & preschoolers love to look at themselves in the mirror. Mirrors provide parents & children with wonderful opportunities for interaction, building language, cognitive skills, & attention. Foster your child’s natural interest in his reflection by taking a few minutes to engage in a mirror game the next time your child is brushing her teeth or washing her hands. Your child will have as much fun with this as you do. Fully engage & get silly. Your little one will be captivated & giggling with you in no time.
Imitating, interpreting and labeling facial expressions are important social-emotional skills that develop in early childhood. Help your child with these skills by playing a game of copycat. Entice your child to engage in play by making funny faces in front of the mirror after brushing teeth or engaging in typical daily routines. Once your child is engaged in the interaction, add in words and directions & encourage your child to take turns (i.e., Mommy is happy. Can you show me a happy face too?). Start with basic emotions such as happy, sad, mad, tired, sick & silly. After you child can easily label & imitate your facial expressions, you can include more complex vocabulary & emotions such as, excited, frustrated, scared, worried, & embarrassed. Children love routine & predictability and take particular joy in catching adults doing something wrong. “Accidentally” produce the wrong facial expression in response to a direction (i.e., make an angry face and say “Daddy is happy.”) Encourage your child to show you how to fix your mistake. Whatever you do, just have fun & don’t be afraid to get silly. Your child will have as much fun with this game as you do.
Play a game of “Silly Sounds” with your toddler or preschooler to encourage verbal imitation, oral motor awareness, attention & turn-taking skills. Toddlers imitate sounds more easily than words, so start with silly sounds (i.e., “achoo”, “mmm-mmm”, “whoo-whoo” etc.). Preschoolers will be able to do more imitation of speech sounds & tune in to the parts of their mouths involved in producing those sounds. Take this opportunity to build vocabulary & increase oral motor awareness by labeling the parts of your child’s mouth. A fabulous game for supporting early speech & language development.
Build your child’s gross motor imitation skills with a game of “Simon Says” while standing in front of a a large mirror. You can use a verbal direction to label what you are doing (“Simon says blow a kiss.”), or play a game of “Silent Simon Says”, omitting the verbal direction & helping your child focus on the motor movements. Great motions to build imitation skills include blowing a kiss, clapping, waving, nodding, patting your head, tummy or nose, stomping your feet, turning around, touching the ground, and hopping. There are no rules. The idea is to get silly, have fun, & fully engage your child in the interaction. Imitation & joint attention are foundational skills for early language development. Any time you spend supporting these skills during play is time well spent.
Want to learn more tips and tricks on how to use toys & routines to build your child’s language & play skills? Sign up for our blog-Babble On– and we’ll send you an e-mail notification when we post updates for parents & educators each week. You can also take a moment to learn more about our top toys for encouraging language development & play skills for babies & preschoolers. Free resources to help your child build language & play skills. What could be better than that?