Have you ever found yourself tucking your child's favourite book deep into the book case in the hope that you'll finally get to read something new today?
You're not alone. As adults we don't generally find a repeated experience all that interesting. We crave something new and unexpected.
But children in the early years love repetition. Repeating an activity or experience is what helps children learn and develop in these formative years.
The Science of Repetition
If you've ever found yourself doing something like driving a car or even rocking a pram with no baby in it, you've been relying on the neural connections in your brain that make something automatic and almost effortless. Neural connections in our brains enable all of our brain functions.
But children are only just starting to create these neural connections in their brains. Neural connections begin to form when the brain experiences something for the first time. As the experience is repeated, the connections get stronger and stronger.
Stronger neural connections early in life lead to more functional brains.
Why Repetition Matters
If strengthening your child's brain development isn't enough alone, other benefits of repetition include:
Giving a sense of security: There are so many things that children don't understand in the world around them. The world can seem confusing and uncertain. The predictability and certainty of repetition can help children to feel more secure.
Learning something new: Even though to us it may seem like children are doing the same thing over and over, they are in fact learning something new with each repetition. Perhaps the first few times they use a shape sorter they're learning about trial and error. The next few times they might have some memory of where certain shapes go. As time goes on they'll be colour matching and shape matching and eventually learning how to identify the different shapes by their properties.
Increasing self-confidence: As children repeat an experience, their knowledge increases. When children begin to feel confident and secure in their knowledge, their self-confidence grows.
Teaching the importance of practice: Even as adults, repetition and practice are important for mastery. Making repetition a part of learning from an early age teaches children the importance of the old phrase 'practice makes perfect'.
Ways You Can Help at Home
1. Repeat Activities
If children are really engaged in an activity, do it again another day or do it for longer. They won't be bored by it and will be learning something new each time.
2. Keep Things Familiar
Being comfortable is one of the reasons why repetition is so important, so make sure the home environment stays comfortable and familiar too. This means keeping routines for certain times of day, keeping their toys and books in the same places and being consistent in your actions and responses.
3. Read Books
Yes, even if it's the same book for the hundredth time, reading is still beneficial. As children hear the same story time and time again, they'll start to develop a familiarity with the vocabulary and sentence structure that they'll later be able to imitate. They'll start to spot things in the pictures or notice the shapes of some of the letters too.
You might also start to talk to them more about the story by asking questions, for instance why they think a character acts a certain way or what they think might happen next.
Challenging them to extend their understanding within a familiar and repeated story will make them feel secure and confident in doing so.
4. Remind Them of Things They've Learnt
Since becoming a parent I think my children's memories are better than mine. But even so, I still need to remind them of new things they've learnt.
Let's say that you've just learnt about something new, like how ice is made of frozen water. The next day when you're pouring them a cup of water say "Do you remember what would happen if we put this water in the freezer?". Then a week later when you're putting some ice in your drink, ask "Do you remember what this ice is made of?"
Taking time to go back over new learnings and talk about them will help to reinforce the newly acquired knowledge.
Little STEAMers classes use the same structure every week to introduce new topics and activities. We regularly recap concepts covered in previous classes in new ways to reinforce the learning. And as Little STEAMers allows you to explore the activities in your own home, you can repeat the activities as much as you like for as long as you like, even coming back to them weeks or months later.