Toddlers and repeated stories

The first, second, third, even fifth time around, Make Way For Ducklings might still seem as cute to you as Baby’s appreciation for it is, but by the forty-fifth, it can get a little trickier to keep the level of enthusiasm high. Of course, reading the same story (and singing the same song, and clamoring to watch the same video) over and over and over isn’t just a toddler trait, but toddlers take repetition to a whole new level.

There are a few different reasons no toddler has ever met a favorite thing that they didn’t want to read/watch/listen to/eat over and over and over again until it got boring. More than that, there are benefits – repetition is an important part of how toddlers learn.

Why do toddlers love repetition?

One of the big reasons Baby may be dragging out their favorite storybook for the third time before lunch is the same reason older kids, teens, and adults sometimes return to old favorites – repetition helps people feel safe. Knowing what comes next in a story provides stability that isn’t always easy for toddlers – who are growing physically, mentally, and emotionally every day – to find.

One of the big problems toddlers face emotionally in their day-to-day lives is trouble with transitions from one activity to another. Routines can help ease the way for transitions, and favorite stories can easily become important parts of the routine.

Why is repetition good for toddlers?

The safety and comfort that comes with repeated stories are one of the reasons repeated stories can be so valuable, but they’re not the only reason. Rereading the same stories over and over also helps babies and toddlers learn new words and language concepts faster than hearing the same words and concepts in different stories, since it gives children the chance to become more familiar with words and concepts, and to recognize them in context.

Do I really need to read Make Way For Ducklings again, though?

As for the specific case of The Story You Really Need A Break From, the answer is, “yes and no.” Yes, it would be nice of you to indulge Baby when they lugs out that favorite story you have memorized again. But no, you don’t need to let them completely set the agenda for storytime, with no consideration for your feelings. Storytime is supposed to be fun, after all, and not just for Baby, but for you, too. You can help keep things fresh by letting Baby know that you get to pick out one book for every storytime, as well as the story or two that they get to pick out. It’s only fair, and as a bonus, it’ll give them an extra chance to practice sharing.

  • Jessica S. Horst, Kelly L. Parsons, Natasha M. Bryan. “Get the Story Straight: Contextual Repetition Promotes Word-Learning from Storybooks.” Frontiers in Psychology. 2. Web. Feb 2011.
  • Sarah Lazrow. “Read it Again, Please! The Benefits of Repeated Read-Alouds.” Children’s Literacy Initiative. Children’s Literacy Initiative. Web.

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