At Abi's Place, the nonprofit I co-direct, we work a lot on teaching the teachers and parents of our children the importance of imitation. Behaviorists believe learning is built upon imitation (although I'm sure people who subscribe to other theories may disagree). If children are able to imitate simple motor movements like clapping hands, raising arms, or stomping feet, they can learn more complex play activities, like Simon Says and Hopscotch. Eventually children are able to use their imaginations to create novel scenarios and activities.
Toddlers love being little mommies and daddies. They love watching what their parents do and imitating it. I often catch Lydia cooking in her kitchen like I do in the real kitchen or pretending to go grocery shopping. Since Bryce was born, she's really become a little mommy. She places her baby dolls in strollers and the baby swing. She wraps them in blankets and carries them around the house. Well, today she was playing independently in her room. I walked in there, and I found her on the floor, breastfeeding her baby doll. She looked surprised but happy to see me. I immediately grabbed my camera to film her. It was a beautiful bonding moment for us - It showed me that she watches what I do, tries to understand it, and is able to imitate it. It was very sweet!