September 7, 2015

Child Speech Therapy: Imitation Strategy for Receptive Language

Receptive language deals with what we hear and how we interpret the information. Receptive language allows the child to understand the world around them. In one of our previous blog posts, we introduced the child speech therapy strategy of labeling to help develop receptive language. The next strategy in this series of child speech therapy strategies for receptive language is imitation.
What Does Imitation Mean?
Imitation is an important skill that is used to acquire new words, word formation, and semantic structures. Turn taking is important in order for imitation to be effective. Your child will not understand how to imitate a person without someone modeling the action first. A great way to incorporate imitation and turn taking is during DIR floor- time. DIR floor-time is when you are on your child’s level and joining in on their playtime.
Activities to Try at Home
There are three steps to implement the strategy of imitation:
         1. Join your child at play (DIR floor-time).
         2. Mimic the child’s actions or sounds by taking turns.
         3. Introduce new actions or sounds for your child to imitate once your child is comfortable. 
Here are some examples:
  •   If your child is not ready to talk yet, actions and signs can be a great alternative for effective communication. For example, waving bye-bye, blowing a kiss, or shaking the head “no”. The more the caretaker models the behavior with the meaning of the phrase, the easier it will be for the child to understand the motion. Wave goodbye to your child every time you separate from them so they can start to associate waving with leaving.  Once they understand the meaning of the wave, they will begin to imitate the action.
  •  Once your child is starting to make sounds, imitate the sounds they are making. If your child says, “ooh” repeat “ooh” back to teach the concept of turn taking. Once your child is familiar with how turn taking works, try to incorporate a new sound such as “aah”. You might be surprised to hear your child say it back to you! It is important to only introduce new sounds instead of words.
  •  If your child is becoming more vocal, join him or her at playtime. For example, if a child is playing with a toy cow and says “moo,” you can take the toy and imitate the same motion by saying “moo” back. The child is now aware that you want to play. Continue to take turns by moving the cow and saying “moo”. The child will begin to anticipate your response after every time he or she says “moo”.  Once the child is comfortable, you can introduce new sounds or words to improve their communication skills. For example, pick up the cat toy and say “meow”. Your child might realize it is their turn and imitate you by saying “meow” in response.
 Receptive language develops best in the child’s natural environment. It is important to implement these strategies into your daily routine to see the most success from your child. For more great activities and examples click here


Heidi. “Using Turn Taking & Imitation to Encourage Communications.” Mommy Speech Therapy. Mommy Speech Therapy, n.d. Web. 22 July 2015.

Swigert, Nancy B. “Chapter 8: Intervention for Receptive Language.” Early Intervention Kit. East Moline, IL: LinguiSystems, 2004. 85. Print.

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