Q. How do I get my child’s attention when I want to model an action for imitation?

There are many strategies that you can use to get your child’s attention before modeling an action for imitation:

  • Animation. Exaggerate your actions, facial expression and vocal quality to help elicit your child’s attention. Try using a loud gasp and waiting a moment for your child to look at you before you model an action. If you child is easily overstimulated, you can still be animated, but use a whisper and rely on your exaggerated facial expressions and actions to draw his attention to you.
  • Playful obstruction. You can playfully block your child’s play with your hands in order to get his attention. If you do this, be sure to give your a child a warning beforehand by saying “1, 2, 3…stop” or “ready, set…stop.” Wait for him to look at you, and then model your action for imitation. As soon as you’ve modeled the action, remove your hands, and let him have access to his materials. Some kids love it when you use a puppet or a small blanket to stop their play, instead of your hands, so feel free to be creative! Playful obstruction may frustrate some children, but if you are able to keep it playful and silly, it can be a great way to get your child to look at you.
  • Trade toys. Try trading toys with your child to help him look at you. Be sure to give your child a warning beforehand by saying “my turn…” or “let’s trade…” Wait for him to look at you, and then model your action for imitation. Let your child take back his original toy if he wants to.

Helpful Hint: While it is natural to call your child’s name to get his attention, try using some of these other strategies. By doing this, you will help him learn to respond to a variety of different social “bids” for attention and increase his social flexibility.