It's baffling. You wonder how on Earth your child could bring himself or herself to watch the same movie for what must be the hundredth time. Sure enough, as the last scene fades away your child starts it up again with rapt attention to the familiar footage. Is there something wrong with your child? You'll probably feel relieved to hear that this penchant for repetition is common, especially for young children. And it's not just kids videos. Children tend to show these repetition patterns with other types of media, like favorite movies, books, and games.
So why do children feel the need to watch the same thing over and over again, and is it something you should be concerned about? We took to parenting websites and published studies to research this common question. Here's what we found.
Kids Watch the Same Thing Repeatedly Because It's Comforting
Think about all the new experiences your child encounters every day. Many of the small, simple things we take for granted have yet to become routine for young children. As exciting as it is to experience life through the senses of a young child, it can also be overwhelming and stressful at times. Watching something familiar may be your child's attempt to self-soothe. Children turn to familiar things, like a favorite kids video, because it can be reassuring for them to know all of the characters as well as what's going to happen next.
Revisiting the same media can also boost your child's confidence. It's a way for children to remind themselves of what they know. Like asking your child to name the animal in the story or quote their favorite line in a movie, children notice and revel in their own ability to “get it right.”
Repetition Can Improve a Child's Comprehension
Not only can repetition make your child feel more at ease and boost their confidence, it can also aid in their comprehension. A 2011 study found that children who were read the same storybooks over again ended up learning more of the vocabulary from those books than children who were read a variety of books with different vocabulary. Repetition, not variation, helped the children learn new words.
You can further this comprehension by actively watching your child's favorite kids video along with him or her. Ask your child what he or she likes about the story or the characters. Point out things your child may not focus on and explain their significance. The benefit to watching the same thing repeatedly is it provides ample opportunity to identify the messages and lessons you most want your child to learn from the content. You also have plenty of occasions to draw your child's attention to those valuable messages.
When Your Child's Repetition Can Be Problematic
Repetition should be a concern if your child is consuming kids video content that isn't appropriate for their age or doesn't offer much value. We talk about the kinds of kids videos parents should probably limit or eliminate from their child's viewing habits in 5 Types of Kids Videos to Avoid. These videos include unboxing and toy play videos, as well as videos with intense imagery or inappropriate social interactions. You can avoid these videos by curating content that is high quality depending on your child's age and particular needs. We talk about the types of videos that parenting advocates believe have value for children in What Kids Videos Are Right for My Child?
In addition to restricting what kids videos your child repeatedly watches, you also need to set limits on your child's screen time. This applies to all children, not just those who prefer to watch the same content a dozen times or more. Hear what parenting advocates recommend for screen time based on your child's age and creating your own screen time schedule.
Children (and Parents) Still Need Variety
Even though allowing your children to watch the same kids videos over and over again isn't necessarily bad and may even help them, you still need to ensure that your children are experiencing a variety of kids content and activities. So let your children enjoy their favorite video or book to their heart's content, but also make sure they're experiencing plenty of play and social interaction opportunities. You'll also want to take the time to introduce them to new content with new messages and lessons.
And face it, variety is also important for your own sanity. That's why the Jellies team is happy to watch the same train videos so many times, so you don't have to lose your mind.