It Bears Repeating: The Need for Repetitive Play
The wheels on the bus go round and round, but that’s not the only thing repetitive in your life right now. You know what I’m talking about. Your child is in the “repeat phase.” Words, phrases, songs, books, toys … they’re all on a seemingly endless loop of sameness that takes tedium to a whole new level. Will it ever stop, you wonder? The long answer is yes, but it’s going to take some time to get there. The truth is, the monotonous nature of a child’s play experiences is crucial to helping her learn. So rather than try to stop the madness, do your best to embrace it and know it’s important. Here’s why.
There are changes—you just don’t see them.
Think of the first time you hear a new song. You don’t know all the words or notes right away, so you play it in your head while you make a lunch or drive to work. Inevitably, you hear the song again, and this time you turn up the volume and pay closer attention. A few more times of listening and you’ve got the whole thing down, word for word, note for note. Your child is doing the same thing, only he doesn’t have the luxury of doing it quietly in his head. Therefore, you get the pleasure of hearing “Twinkle, twinkle lid bug jar” sung at ear-bleeding decibels for a week straight. Eventually though, through repetition and hearing the right words, he will get it right and move on … probably to an even more annoying song. (Also, in case you didn’t realize, “Twinkle, Twinkle” and the ABCs are sung to the same tune, so you get a double whammy while they learn those gems.)
Master of some
It should come as no surprise that children need stability. Their world is full of new, and that can be scary and overwhelming. One of the best places to find that constancy is through the repetition of reading. Firstly, the recurrence of the act itself (a bedtime story) is comforting. Secondly, books are a cornucopia of layered learning experiences. You may think it’s the exact same story every night, but your child is discovering a new wonder with each reading. The flowers are pink on page five. The turtle is smiling when he wins the race. The words on the page are the same every night and, hey, they’re starting to look familiar. Adding layers of complexity will help your child feel like a master of his book, and that will give him confidence and pride. The downside? Your kid knows good and well when you try to skip a page, so don’t even attempt it.
Don’t tune them out
The first time your child goes down a slide, it’s a huge deal. She’s all legs and arms and headfirst and sideways. As parents, we cheer and yell for her. Then, after the fifth ride, we begin to lose interest. What we don’t see is that on the sixth time, she learns which muscles to engage to keep from falling over. On try 18, she discovers that by leaning back, she goes down faster. By the 25th ride, she’s imitating another child who put his arms in the air to make the experience more exhilarating. For parents, it’s easy to assume a ride down a slide is just a ride down a slide. But your child is learning something new each time, and she wants your approval. So, as seemingly repetitive as it may be, pay attention. Notice when she tries something new and encourage her. She’s becoming a master of slide riding, right before your very eyes.
Watching your child learn takes a true dedication to the long game. But really, in the end, parenting is nothing if not a long (okay, forever) process. It’s when we take the time to watch our children and all their little accomplishments that we can truly appreciate the biggest ones. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and your child won’t build a Lego representation of it in one day either. Relish the repetitive.
(Except for “The Wheels on the Bus” song. I wouldn’t blame any parent for getting ear plugs.)
Ways You Can Encourage Repetitive Learning Today
- Limit screen time – Your child will learn way more by playing than by watching someone else.
- Sing – Music teaches memory, math, language and a zillion other things all at once. Make it a part of your daily life.
- Read – Read signs, read books, read magazines, read the backs of ketchup bottles. Do it daily, do it hourly.
- Play with blocks – Building is all about repetitive trial and error. It’s also incredibly gratifying for children when they get it right, so celebrate when they do!
Kim Antisdel is a freelance writer and interior design sales rep for KC. She lives in Liberty with her husband, stepdaughters and toddler son.
As always, please consult your health care provider with any questions or concerns.