As I’m sure you know by now if you’ve been following our Bag of Tricks Blog, imitation is a key foundational skill to speaking. This week we want to talk about the importance of imitating facial expressions and types of feelings you can have your infant emulate. Imitating facial expressions will allow you to practice that essential turn-taking crucial for later conversation skills. And facial expressions are of course closely related to feelings, so you can start talking about how they feel in certain situations – “Wow did Daddy surprise you?” At a later age your child will begin to understand the true meaning of these feelings and will begin to empathize, but right now we just want to have him or her do exactly what we do!
Happy – Your child began smiling a while back, but it’s always beneficial to smile right back at them when they initiate a smile. Watch if they imitate you! And as we said before, label their feelings, so they can associate that state with a feeling and positive thoughts eventually. We find that songs and toys/activities that are fun are perfect opportunities to imitate happy faces and laughing! ☺
Surprised – This is one of the most fun facial expressions to have your child imitate! We often target it while playing “Peek a Boo” with a blanket or opening up a new item/gift. Feel free to wrap items up for no reason and have your child rip it open to target that surprised element! You’ll also be targeting object permanence at the same time. Holidays and birthdays are a perfect time for this. Babies often find it funny and love making a surprised face right back at you!
Sad – Imitating a frown can often be difficult at such a young age, but you can even try it in front of a mirror. We often target this if something they did makes us sad (e.g. – if they threw a bowl of food on the floor). We make statements such as “That makes me sad when you throw things” instead of “No don’t do that!” When you don’t assign meaning to the situation it essentially becomes meaningless. It is of course a milestone to follow commands “No!” and “Stop!” but you want them to know why.
Mad – This is also a facial expression that is hard to imitate, but you can imitate it when they are “mad” and tell them “Are you mad because I took away your toy?”. When they begin talking they will have an easier time expressing their feelings and why they are feeling a certain way, which will certainly decrease frustration!
Tired – They may not imitate yawning yet, but it’s something to begin at this age. You can pretend to put a doll or animal to sleep and show them how to act tired. Sometimes even videoing yourself doing these actions are also helpful and children are more likely to imitate.
Other actions you can target as they get older include hungry, scared, sick, etc. You can mix it up with pretend play and have fun with it! Happy imitating ☺