Imitation: The Heart and Foundation of Language Development

Imitation: The Heart and Foundation of Language Development

We learn by imitation all the time – at a yoga class, watching a cooking channel, taking dance lessons, or even getting styling tips from a hairdresser.

Children begin to imitate at the earliest ages. A child might bang on a drum, push a toy car, clap hands, or wave bye-bye.

When mother and baby bond and play, they imitate each other’s sounds, actions, and expressions. This back-and-forth imitation is an early form of conversation – but without words. It helps infants learn to socially engage, take turns, share emotions, and pay attention to their parent or caregiver.

Gemiini has built imitation into dozens of learning clips that combine exaggerated actions with silly sounds, playful words, and animal noises. The goal is to encourage vocal imitation and lay a foundation for language learning.

Speech with Movement Encourages Vocal Imitation

Imitation skills are foundational to developing language. Back-and-forth games help children develop communication skills and learn to do new things by watching other people.

Children with autism often follow the therapist’s prompt to “Do this,” followed by positive reinforcement or reward. This approach is often used in Applied Behavioural Analysis. Imitation is drilled repeatedly by the ABA therapist, who provides the reinforcement and selects the drills. Gemiini leverages the power of computers to program the drilling. In the Gemiini Language Pyramid, a student must imitate actions before advancing through the various stages of language development.

Imitation of sounds and words 

Vocal imitation typically develops after a child can imitate actions and movements. Gemiini‘s imitation clips encourage vocal imitation by pairing speech with exaggerated motions. In these clips, the actor prompts a child to imitate her actions, saying, “Do this!” – just like with an ABA therapist.

The actor exaggerates the movement and makes a silly sound - for example, pushing a car and saying, “Zoom!” or pinching her nose and saying, “Ick!”

The child responds by imitating both the action and the vocalization. These clips are located in Verbal Behavior → Imitation → Motor Imitation → Stage 5 - Bridge to Verbal Imitation.

Seeing these actions modeled by peers in the videos is designed to spark imitation in real life. 


  • Watch the Gemiini imitation clips with your student.
  • Copy the actions of the actors on the screen, and encourage your student to follow along.
  • Don’t worry about precision. Making the attempt using imitation is what matters.

Generalizing Imitation

You are encouraged to generalize the imitation games outside of the therapy sessions – especially if your student struggles with imitation skills. Exaggerating gestures and making silly sounds is a great way to get your child interested in what you are doing. Keep these imitation sessions fun and interesting. Try playing games like “Simon Says” or “Follow the Leader.” You can also sing action songs like “I’m a Little Teapot,” “The Itsy, Bitsy Spider,” or “Head, Shoulders, Knees & Toes.”

Getting Help

For help encouraging imitation or any other questions about using Gemiini effectively, please schedule a free consult with one of our Product Specialists. If you’re having technical trouble or need help getting started, check out the articles in our Knowledge Base. If you seek clips that don’t exist on the site, please send a content request to