High Five: Repetition

I’ll say it once, and I’ll say it again. Repetition is key to helping children learn. Each time a child hears a word and connects it to the thing that the word means it creates a neural pathway in their brain. You see a cat on a walk, and you tell your baby, “Look at that beautiful, fluffy cat!” Hearing it again strengthens that connection. “Meow,” says the cat as you’re reading a picture book together. Each time they hear it again in a different context with different associations, those associations trigger them to recall the word. “Remember last time we read a story? What was it about?” you say as you sit down with a new book.

So how do we go about providing children with the repetition that they need? A big part of that is simply by having a lot of input. Talking to your baby or child as you go about your day helps. Narrating what you are doing, asking them questions, and responding to how they react to things provides a lot of input. You can even have “conversations” with your baby by responding to their reactions. “I think I’m going to get this cereal. What do you think?” Your baby stretches an arm out to touch the tiger on the box. “You’re right - this one has a tiger on it. Good choice.” The input they get will inevitably have repetition in it as you go through your normal daily routine.

Be patient when your child wants to listen to the same song, watch the same movie or read the same book again. That can be hard for an adult, because the fifth time you hear “Baby Shark” is four times too many (maybe five). But to your child, each time is a new experience. It’s a new day, they’re wearing different clothes, you’re in the car not at your house and it feels like they are hearing it for the first time. Each repetition is building new associations.

When you think your child has mastered something you can help them elevate their understanding by adding some variation. Could we change the lyrics of “Baby Shark?” Can we act out Moana in costumes instead? Let’s try to find another book about trains. Repetition with variation helps with cognitive flexibility. - Crystal (Downtown)

Looking for more inspiration? Check out the book searches linked into this article, and drop in to Storytime for stories, songs, and activities that your child will love doing again and again!