The Power of Repetition
By Olynda Smith, AMS Certified Montessori Primary teacher
Play it again!
You may have noticed that young children can spend long periods of time doing the same thing over and over again. This may seem puzzling to an adult observer until we realize that they are not “doing” what we think they are. We may see that they are busy taking the toy bees out of their hives and putting them back in again and again. But they are not actually taking bees out and putting them back in again. They are actually building in themselves the many skills involved in doing that work: color matching, gross motor movement, hand strength, and concentration to name a few.
We adults are not so different. People who practice yoga spend countless hours doing the same poses. If you were watching a yogi, you might wonder why they keep doing the same poses! But they are not doing the pose for the pose’s sake. They are building strength, balance, mindfulness and love. In the same way, the children may repeat something many, many times to acquire and perfect new skills. What they are building through their play is themselves.
Stuart Brown in Play: How it Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination and Invigorates the Soul writes, “We are built to play and built through play.”
For this reason, allowing for repetition is a key element of the Montessori Method. Like all of Dr. Maria Montessori’s work, she came to understand the importance of repetition through observing children.
Children also benefit from repeating activities that they did in the past. When they come back to toys they used to play with, children get a chance to see how much they have grown. It can be comforting and often settles children to revisit an old toy. When they see the growth they have had, that can give them what they need to try something new and challenging! If you have old toys of theirs tucked away, make sure to bring them back out as a “blast from the past” every once in a while. You may wish to even request an old favorite in your next Tiny Earth exchange!