Children's Learning Adventure
Nov 18, 2019
How Repetition Helps Children Learn
For many adults, the word repetition evokes images of boring exercises where we forced to memorize and recite without any expectation that we understood what we were repeating.
Let’s be clear. This is not the kind of repetition we are talking about.
Children Like Repetition
The first thing you should know about repetition? Children, especially young children, are not bored with it. They love to repeat actions, words, games and songs.. It’s why we can play games of peek a boo with a baby for hours on end and why your three-year-old will request the same storybook before bed every night.
So, if repetition is fun, learning is fun. But more importantly, repetition is also critical to a child’s ability to learn.
How Repetition Aids Learning
There are numerous ways that repetition can help your child learn. In addition to providing an opportunity for children to practice and retain knowledge, repetition:
• Strengthens the brain’s neural processors
• Encourages mastery of new skills
• Provides a sense of security and safety through predictability that fosters learning
• Increases confidence
• Reinforces existing skills
• Internalizes concepts
• Teaches the internalization of concepts
• Allows skills or concepts to be applied to new situations
• Encourages coordination through repetitive movement
• Increases the speed of learning
• Encourages self-discipline and critical reflection
• Develops intelligence through higher-order repetition such as synthesis, analysis and application
Why Repetition Works
Babies often develop a preference for the familiar: a parent’s face, a nursery rhyme or a song. As they grow older, they will begin to repeat words and predict what comes next in a favourite story or game. This is all part of learning.
But repetition is about more than just what’s familiar. Studies have shown that children learn new words better, for example, when they hear them repeated in the same story rather than in a series of different stories.
Brain Science Supports Repetition
Learning requires electrical energy to create neural pathways. The more we memorize a task or skill, the less energy is needed to complete it. This will also free the neural pathways for another purpose.
Children are just beginning to build these neural pathways in their brains. Repetition provides the building blocks for this construction process. It also strengthens the pathways as they are created. The more pathways, and the stronger the pathways they create, the more capacity for learning a child will have.
The Magic of Spaced Repetition
A child’s brain, like our own, stores information according to how important it is. It naturally strengthens memories of things it encounters frequently and sidelines the information that is rarely needed.
Spaced repetition is a learning technique that mimics the way the brain already works. It’s a little like flexing your brain muscles. Spaced repetition involves the retrieval of information regularly at set or increasing intervals.
It’s a technique that has proven effective over time to help children retain and build on critical knowledge. For example, you might teach squares, circles and triangles and then after playtime return the subject by asking students to identify each shape.
The next day you could review with a game and then perhaps a few days later with another test. Extending the time between each retrieval further embeds the learning and ensures that the memory of this learning is easily accessible to the learner.
Repetition in Language Development
Repetition creates the foundation for all learning. It reinforces memory, enhances sequencing skills and increases vocabulary. It is what allows young children to predict rhyming words or what comes next in a story. The ability to predict, in turn, increases their natural desire to learn more. What starts as pretending to “read” the words they have memorized, turns into an eagerness to sound out and eventually recognize more words. Repetition and memorization will also allow a child to begin to develop phonetic awareness and, eventually, reading skills.
Repetition in Problem Solving
Repetition is also a critical skill in early math learning. Chunking numbers into a pattern can help young children recall them. Later they’ll expend less effort on remembering these previously learned skills and be able to focus on more complicated problem-solving. Repetition, memorization and practice improve a child’s ability to recall essential concepts making it much easier for them to handle complex learning and problem-solving.
Repetition in Generalization and Higher-Level Learning
Repetition also cements a child’s ability to apply past learning to new learning when situations are similar. This is called generalization, and it is what allows a child to use skills or knowledge in a unique setting or situation or to solve a new problem. For children, repetition is fun. But it is also a foundation that sets them up for successful learning well into adulthood.
So when your child asks you to read that story or play that game just one more time, see it for the learning opportunity it is.