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Your children readily imitate the behavior of
others, like talking and eating. How can you help your children learn through
imitation? First, encourage a “show me how” attitude – you observe
your toddler playing with blocks on the floor, so you sit down, play for a while,
and demonstrate some of the possibilities for playing with blocks. You come
back later and notice your toddler is doing some of the same things you had
done. Later, while playing with some other toys, he asks, “Show me how to
play.” He has picked up the idea of finding someone who knows how to play
to imitate. Or, your grade schooler asks if he can use the electric hair dryer.
You say, “I’ll have to show you how to use it.” He says, “I
already know how. I watched you.”

Your children learn to be selective about whom
they imitate, how to find people who know how, how to get other people to show
them how, and how to express appreciation when someone has taken the time to
show them how. Children who know when and how to find someone to show them how,
and how to get them to show them, are a big step ahead of children without
these skills.

You want to show your children how to do things,
but may not want to do things for them. For example, a grade schooler wants to
know how to do a particular arithmetic problem. You carefully show her how to
do the problem. Did she really learn how, or did she simply “con” you
into doing the problem for her? You say, “Now I want you to do another
problem, to show me you really know how to do it.” She may object a
little, but soon comes to understand once you have shown her how to do
something, you expect her to demonstrate what she has learned. This encourages
her to observe more closely and to really imitate the behavior.

Encourage your children to use reference books
and other resource materials. They learn how to interpret diagrams, follow
instructions, recipes, and the like. They gradually develop the skills of
observing, reading, asking questions, and so forth.

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