Here’s a common question I get asked about 2 and 3 year olds.
My son always wants to read the same book, play the same game & see the same cartoon over and over again. Is this normal? What can I do to widen his experiences and help him to discover other things?
Young children love repetition, whether it’s watching the same video, listening to the same song over and over again, or saying the same nursery rhyme repeatedly, reading the same book, playing the same game, or seeing the same cartoon on a loop, because it’s the best way for them to acquire and master new skills.
In order to learn something well, children this age practice it until they get it right, hence the repeated watching, playing or reading.
What is your child practicing by repeatedly reading the same book?
It depends on the book, of course, but it could be that they don’t yet understand the story line and as they continue to re- read it, they have a better understanding of it. Repeated readings help young children master the storyline, the ideas, the vocabulary and the language of a story.
You can guide repeated story readings to help your child understand, talk about, and be part of the story. Many young children, especially those with speech and language delays, are not able to grasp an entire story on the first reading. Having books read a number of times helps children understand and notice new things. So be respectful of their choices to repeat stories, games, cartoons or TV programmes.
Some children love the sound of the words or the funny phrases – and the familiarity gives them confidence in what’s coming next. My children loved ‘We’re Going On A Bear Hunt’ as it encouraged the repetition and acquisition of language patterns – they knew what was coming next which made them laugh as we all joined in.
When you read a story to a child over-and-over, they will work out what an unfamiliar word means by the other words that they hear. Repeated reading gives your child opportunities to notice the same sound patterns. Support their learning by pointing out some letters and words as you re-read the book. This will help them pick out specific words that are easily recognised and specific letter-sound relationships which will lay the foundation for their independent reading later.
Once your child has mastered a book, game or video they will want to celebrate their success by participating in what they’re seeing, so they’ll continue to watch. They ‘ll probably announce the next plot sequence or song (in their head or out loud); for children this age, making correct predictions is the ultimate form of mastery. Since life is fairly unpredictable for them, they especially relish feeling competent and in control of what’s coming next.
Here are some ideas that will help you make repeated readings interesting and engaging to your child.
- Encourage your child to take an active part in repeated book readings. Provide opportunities for them to interject, predict what’s next, and ask questions.
- Repeated readings are valuable because they allow children to become familiar with a book. They will start to understand the story better and think more about it. A great place to start is by reading a child’s favourite book. Ask questions about it as you read and help them make connections between the story and their own life.
- Open ended questions are the best – questions that don’t close down with just a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer. Open-ended questions are ones that require more than one word answers and start with ‘What, Where, How, Why’
- Let your child pick the story that you are going to share. Young children will often choose the same book over and over on their own which encourages their independence and autonomy.
- Be excited about the story even when you’re reading it for the umpteenth time. Reading aloud involves much more than saying words and turning pages. When you show excitement about the pictures, story, setting, and characters, you will excite your child, too.
- Let your child “read” or tell the story to you in their own words. Children get to know the words or plot to a story that has been read to them many times. They enjoy saying the words and turning the pages, just as if they were reading the book.
- Enjoy it if they make up new parts, or characters in the story as it shows their creativity.
From the familiar you can introduce new books, perhaps from the same author or publisher, with similar pictures, or a book that is similar in theme. Gently guide and lead your child to explore new books, games, shows or ways of expanding their experiences of the world. Growing up is not a competition, so be guided by your child and enjoy sharing their choices while opening up new possibilities when you feel the time is right.