You want to begin by modeling actions that your child naturally wants to imitate. This includes actions that your child already performs on his own (familiar actions), as well as actions that are at, or slightly above, your child’s developmental level. If you model actions that are too advanced, your child may not understand the action and may not imitate you. To decide good actions to model, watch what your child does with toys on his own and model similar actions. If your child likes to explore toys by banging, throwing, and dropping them, model these types of actions as well as nesting one object in another, putting objects in containers, lining, stacking, or ordering toys in certain ways. If your child uses most common toys appropriately, such as pushing cars, putting people in cars, and throwing and catching balls, model these types of actions as well as some basic pretend actions. The actions you model do not have to be functional or meaningful; the goal is to increase your child’s motivation to imitate your behavior.
Once your child is imitating familiar actions consistently with the toy she is playing with, you can begin to focus on expanding your child’s play skills. It is important to continue to model interesting actions at or slightly above your child’s developmental play level. However, you may begin to increase the complexity of the actions you model. See [EXPAND YOUR CHILD’s PLAY SKILLS HANDOUT]