It’s bedtime and Miss 5 requests, yet again, to read the same book that we have read every night this week. I ask, “Really? Again? Aren’t you tired of this book yet?” Of course, the answer is a resounding “no”. 

I remind myself that this is one of the ways that children find comfort in the world around them. Children seek familiarity and repetition for a few reasons: 

  • Familiarity provides routine and allows children to predict what comes next. 
  • Familiarity offers reassurance and provides a sense of security. 
  • Repetition creates pathways in our brain to make us more efficient.  

Familiarity as a concept is quite broad. In this context, I’m referring to the emotional connection that children associate with people, objects, and even their daily routine. For example, it is common for children to have a favourite cuddle toy for sleep time. To you and me it may look like a teddy bear that is begging for a good wash, but to your child that teddy bear represents love, security, and comfort. This association arouses feelings of restfulness, calm, and all the other things that a good night’s sleep makes us feel. When the association is positive, why wouldn’t we want to do it over and over again? 

Repetition allows children to revisit experiences which empowers them as they acquire knowledge that leads to mastery. Repeating activities and tasks stimulate the brain’s working memory making it more efficient at recalling information. This is useful later on as your child’s cognitive skills develop onto other higher order thinking skills, such as the ability to understand, apply, and evaluate information that leads to the creation of new ideas.  

From a neuroscience perspective, when children revisit or repeat experiences and activities they reinforce neural pathways to make those connections stronger. This means that each time your child attempts a task they are effectively improving. Over time, this improvement looks like speed and confidence as your child is better able to undertake the task. 

To keep things fun and interestingfor parents too—it’s best to approach learning as active participants and incorporate all the senses. This means children need to 

  • Touch 
  • See 
  • Hear 
  • Do 

Learning through play provides all these opportunities. Your child will develop a preference for how they engage in play. This is why it’s important to allow children to take the lead in their play; as our children’s first teachers, we parents must understand how our child learns. Howard Gardner (1983) devised a theory known as Multiple Intelligences that outlines the way in which learners engage with the world around them. For example, if your child has a favourite book you could design a craft activity that uses the same concepts or themes. This reinforces the aspects of the book that your child enjoys, all the while developing those pathways in the brain that make learning a more efficient process.  

If your child is requesting to do something over and over it means they are interested and enjoying it! This is a good opportunity to find out what it is that they find so fascinating and use it to build a positive emotional connection through familiarityTry to share your child’s interests so you have the understanding and patience to revisit the same book, song, or activity again and again and again! Take both strength and comfort in knowing that these interests will fade and eventually a new and exciting topic will pique your child’s curiosity. And remember, following interests can ignite motivation for life-long learning. 

Blog by Ebony Almond, Playgroup Queensland Field Support Officer

Gardner, Howard (1983) Frames of Mind: The theory of multiple intelligences, New York: Basic Books.