Critical Competencies for Infant-Toddler Educators™ Online Module C-3: Promoting Imitation, Symbolic Representation, and Play
Infant-toddler educators can promote children’s imitation, symbolic representation, and play skills by playing games like peek-a-boo with young infants and later by promoting imaginary play with toddlers in their group care settings. Early games with infants, such as peek-a-boo or hiding an object briefly while an infant is engaged, work to promote object permanence, or the understanding that an object exists even when it is out of sight. Later, as toddlers engage in symbolic or imaginary play, teachers can support toddlers as they act out familiar scenarios and take on pretend roles—parenting a baby doll for instance. As toddlers’ development of symbolic representation deepens, teachers can also encourage the use of one object to stand for another (e.g., using a small block as a telephone). Emerging imaginary play skills can be supported by infant-toddler educators who join in pretend play scenarios when invited, and participate in back-and-forth exchanges (verbal and nonverbal) to extend the imaginary play. As children develop these skills, educators can add to imaginary scenarios by introducing new props, asking open-ended questions about what will happen next in the play, inviting peers into the play, and promoting the exchange of language during play scenarios.