By now, you may have noticed that Baby does best with routines they can count on, and that you can count on their smile, laugh, or happy response when you turn to old favorite picture books, songs, or games. Why is that, though? Baby has a whole world to discover, so why does the thing that brings a smile to their little face always have to be that one song you started to love a little less after the first thirty times?
There are two answers to that question, and both will make you feel better about the fact that the lyrics of that one lullaby are so burned into your brain that you can’t even get away from it when you’re asleep: it helps them learn, and it makes them feel safe.
The things a baby sees, hears, or feels repeated are the things they remember, and things they remember are things they have to build off of in future experiences. This is really learning at its core. Baby learns about gravity when they push their bottle onto the floor again, and they are learning about you, and the way they can count on you when you pick it up again. Being able to trust in both your reactions and the cause and effect they are learning about every time a repeated action creates the same reaction makes Baby feel safe. It also builds on their understanding of the world around them. Basically, the fact that the world is all brand new to Baby is exactly why they like repetition so much.
In particular, repeated songs and stories help babies work on the building blocks of language long before they start talking. A 2011 study conducted at the University of Brighton in the UK suggests that even when babies aren’t learning words yet, they’re internalizing the sound and speech patterns specific to their native language. Baby may not have the context to understand certain picture books yet, but the fact that you’re reading them to them helps them gather the building blocks that will have them talking before you know it!