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Toddler Talk: Copying Mom

Photograph by Getty Images

“What are you doing?” I asked my two and a half year old son.

“Cooking coffee,” he replied, busily putting a plastic cup in the play microwave as we sat in the play restaurant at our local children’s museum. After cooking it for two seconds, he brought it over where I was seated.

Without waiting to see what I did with his creation, he went back to the play kitchen and brought over a plate piled high with plastic vegetables. “Eat salad,” he commanded. I dutifully picked up my plastic fork and made loud yummy noises. He looked pleased as he brought over two more plates piled high with meat, a loaf of bread, random slices of pizza and cake. Before long, I was surrounded by eight piles of play food and drinks.

“I’m full,” I said at last, rubbing my tummy. He looked disappointed, holding the ninth pile of food in his hands.

“Can you clean up and wash the dishes?” I suggested. He brightened and happily carted away plates of food back to the play kitchen. He pretended to turn on the water, and wash the dishes.

Pretend play is an important milestone for children. Copying adult behaviors begins early in infancy. When your four month old smiles at you when you smile at her, she is copying you. This continues as your child learns to walk, talk, and do important daily activities such as brushing teeth, getting dressed and learning to use the potty. Toddlers love to pretend to be adults as they imitate us by cooking, vacuuming, sweeping the floor and doing laundry.

If only they would keep doing these tasks for fun as they got older!

Trying to redirect my son who was still washing dishes, I said to him, “Why don’t you come over here and cook something else?”

He stayed focused on the bowl he was vigorously scrubbing, and without turning around, he replied, “Sorry, mommy, I’m busy.”

Oops, maybe copying me isn’t always the best thing!

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