Helping your toddler try new things

Why your toddler likes to do thing repeatedly and how to encourage her to try new things.

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While most adults prefer novelty when it comes to stimulation and entertainment, things don’t work that way for your toddler – she loves repetition.

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She’ll play the same game over and over again, even though there are dozens of other equally interesting toys to choose from. She’ll insist you read the same story to her so often, you can see her mouth the words with you. 

And she’ll ask you the same questions over and over despite the fact that she knows the answer! You’d expect her to be bored with repetition (as you may well be), but instead she’s thinking, “This is such good fun.”

Reasons why your toddler loves repetition

There are three main reasons why your toddler loves repetition:

  1. “I like what I know.” Despite her natural curiosity and desire to explore new places and objects, she needs structure and predictability. Repetition brings a sense of security, because your child knows what to expect.
  1. “Doing this over and over helps me to learn.” When you try to remember a new phone number, you probably repeat it over and over again until it’s fixed in your memory. Repetition works just as well for your child. When she reaches for that same game she plays with every day, she’s using an effective learning technique.
  1. “I feel confident doing this again and again.” Repetition helps your toddler to achieve success, and there’s nothing better than success to raise her self-esteem. That’s why she’s perfectly happy to sit with the same jigsaw, putting the same pieces together in the same way again and again. Every act of repetition makes her feel good about herself.

Encourage your toddler to try new things

The security of familiarity can turn into a way of avoiding new experiences, and that’s not in your toddler’s best interests. You may need to help her find a balance between enjoying repetition and coping with new challenges. Approach this sensitively and gently.

If you simply confront your child by telling her she watches her favourite video too often or she plays with the same toys all the time, you could have a battle on your hands – she’ll be even more determined to repeat things.

A more effective way to encourage her to try new experiences is to talk about them positively, explaining the advantages, rather than simply rejecting familiarity.

Your child will be able to cope better with a new experience if the old and new are linked. For example, if you want her to play with a new puzzle toy instead of the familiar one, let her start playing with the old toy and keep it beside her while you introduce the new one.

Stay with her while she explores the new item, talking to her enthusiastically about it, and let her see you’re interested in her reaction. Your involvement boosts her motivation to try new things.

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