Over and Over, Again: Why Repetition Is Good for Children

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March 11, 2011 ‐ By L. Nicole Williams

Every parent endures those precious toddler and pre-school moments when the only thing her son wants to watch is Finding Nemo. Or the only story her daughter wants for bedtime is Little Red Riding Hood. As adults, we are constantly looking for new stimulation while children get all they need doing the opposite.

Each day of a young child’s life, he or she learns something new. For the child, “new” is the unknown and that can be scary. They enjoy following storylines when they know what is coming next. A sense of comfort comes with the predictability of repetition. They gain confidence in knowing what to expect. You may hear your child reciting each line verbatim and wonder what keeps them interested. It is the feeling that they have “mastered” something and quite often they will want to share it with you, which comes in the form of “Mommy! Mommy! Watch! There he goes! Nemo swimming.” Instead of brushing it off with an “O.K., O.K.,” use it as an opportunity to further validate them and push for deeper understanding. Ask questions. Where is he going? Is he happy? Is he sad? Relate it to something in their life.

By inquiring for more information, you are feeding a desire to learn and building comprehension skills. Research has proven children learn best through repetition, as it establishes neural connections. For example, brain pathways that lead to emotional development are strengthened through healthy, loving day-to-day contact with parents. Their brains are wired for this. It is how the neural passageways in their brains become highways for learning. Children thrive on the repetition of patterns, sounds and experiences.

Parents should set aside time each day to encourage the repetition of songs, stories and other experiences. For stay-at-home mothers, this could be implementing two 10-20 minute windows (one in the morning and one in the afternoon) for sing-a-long songs and reading. It is recommended that you designate specific areas in the house for these activities just as you would for disciplinary actions, as children associate different areas of the home with various activities and adjust accordingly. Inside of the reading area, they will learn to sit down and listen. For working parents, try a bedtime routine that includes both a bath story and bedside story, both read twice. Books like There’s a Wocket in My Pocket by Dr. Seuss with repetitive sounds and rhyming are best.

The most important thing is to encourage your child’s repetitive behavior and move on to something new when they are ready. Give them the opportunity to indulge in their current interests and their neurological development will thank you.

Want to know more about LaShaun Williams? Check out her blog or follow her on Twitter @itsmelashaun

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