Ready, Set, Go!

Copy Cat

Teaching Play Skills (Part 2)

Learning Goals

  • Increasing verbal and motor imitation skills.
  • Increasing solitary play and leisure skills.

Learning Connection

Imitation is a pivotal skill in early development through which children learn new skills and engage in social interactions with others. Interaction play a key role in the development of social interaction, which includes language, pretend play, social interaction and emotional exchange.

Reciprocal Imitation Training Manual
Dr Brooke Ingersoll – Michigan State University


  • 2 boxes
  • 2 trains
  • track pieces
  • sticky note
  • pen


  • Fill each box with only enough track pieces to make a simple round track.
  • Write the number 3, 2, and 1 on the sticky notes.

This activity is to be completed with two sets of materials to allow you to imitate the learner’s play at the same time they are playing and to allow you to model new ways for the learner to play without having to take the learner’s toys away. (Adapted from Do-Watch-Listen-Say by Kathleen Ann Quill and L. Lynn Stansberry Brusnahan.)


  1. Sit face to face.
  2. Put a piece of track in front of the learner.
  3. Observe how she or he interacts with the track. Imitate the learner’s actions and vocalizations, building on what they say. For example, if they say “/t/”, you can say, “yes, it’s a track!”.
  4. Model how to connect pieces of the track. Repeat the action a few times. Explain what you are doing using simple phrases, such as “put track”. Give the learner several opportunities to imitate you. Wait, then if needed, point to where the track needs to go or if needed, provide physical guidance.
  5. Immediately praise any attempt to imitate you with verbal praise and/or physical contact. Make sure to provide more praise when the learner imitates you independently than when prompted.
  1. Once their track is complete, hand the learner the train and encourage them to push it around the track.
  2. If needed, teach the learner how to push the train by imitating the learner’s actions, modeling how to push the train around the track, explaining what you are doing (ex. train go) and supporting the learner in imitating you.
  3. Show the learner how many times the train can go around using the sticky notes. Pull off each number as the train goes around the track.
  4. Show the learner that the activity is finished.
  5. Support the learner in putting the train and track back into the box.
  6. Support the learner in checking their schedule to see what is next.