Friday, September 4, 2009

Happiness is No Surprise: Why Babies Love Repetition

Babies are born hardwired to want to make sense of the world around them. Imagine how confusing all the new sounds, sights, and smells must be for newborns and young babies. Fortunately, babies work hard from birth to tune into what is going on, give cues to signal their needs, and learn as much as they can before they get too tired and fall asleep. As babies get older, they broaden their learning with experimentation, tasting, touching, smelling, pushing, squeezing, and dropping everything they can. Parents get to participate in these experiments, sometimes by bringing new toys or picking up the dropped spoon again and again. In just a few short weeks and months, babies are able to see and anticipate patterns in actions and that's when the fun really begins.

Have you ever wondered why babies love to listen to you read the same books over and over again, why they laugh hysterically when you play peek-a-boo, or squeal with joy when daddy pretends to be a tickle-monster? All of these activities and games require repetitive patterns of action that end with a predictable conclusion. Babies just LOVE to predict what is about to happen to them.

Let's say your baby is quiet, alert, and ready to play. You can show her a toy, move it or shake it close to her face, then take it and tickle her tummy with it. If she's old enough, she'll smile and maybe even laugh. Now, follow the same sequence again. Show the toy, shake it gently, and tickle her belly. Now your baby will really laugh! Do it again and she may laugh when you are gently shaking the toy. She'll laugh and kick her legs in anticipation of your tickling her. She'll want you to play your new little game several times before she'll tire of it. When you play simple repetitive games with your baby and read books the same way again and again, you're helping your baby joyfully make sense of her new world.

So, when you don't think you can read Goodnight Moon one more time without going insane or you wonder why your baby wants you to put the blue blocks (not the yellow blocks!) in the pail 8 times in a row, just keep in mind that your repetitive actions are helping your baby learn and develop. Don't worry, soon enough Goodnight Moon will stay on the shelf. But you know what? You'll find that you miss it.


  1. Have you heard of "Read It! Play It"? Great guide to reading and playing with books.