Repetition: the Heart of Education

Children love repetition. Songs (“The inky dinky spider ran up the water spout.” Rhymes (“Down in the meadow where the green grass grows . . .”, “This little piggy . . .”). Games: jump rope, hide and seek, Red Rover, all involve the element of repetition whether counting or rhyming or some repeated movement (hopscotch).

Why is that? Why is it so fascinating to children? Psychologists tell us several things are happening to make repetition a child’s playground. First off it‘s how children learn. Hearing or seeing something re-peat over and over, a child learns it quickly without the reasoning element (which develops later for more in depth learning).

Repetition is relaxing for a child. Mothers know this of course, when they unconsciously rock their child on their hip. Back and forth, back and forth. Knowing what “always comes next” creates a safety zone for a child. The world is predictable and I can count on it. A child feels safe.

Children will play with others who like repetition just as much as they do. How many times will a child crack up laughing at your silly face playing “Peek-a-Boo”?

Later on, repetition appears in a more mature form as custom or tradition. Still the repeating nature is present. I remember as a child the year our dad decided to put the Christmas Tree on the other side of the room, “just to change things up”. My sisters and I went nuts. ”Daddy!! The Christmas tree goes by the fireplace!”

Literally. . after many, many years (maybe 4!) there was only one place for the tree . .dad relented and we children rejoiced at Christmas properly celebrated.


Parents . . . so what do you do in your house that teaches your child by repetition? For example:

BEDTIME AND PRAYER. What routine does the family follow in getting the children ready for bed? How do you include “prayer” as part of that routine?

STORY TELLING. Do you tell stories to the children? Stories are great moments for parents to impart hope and dreams for their children. What are their favorites? What life lessons do your stories teach? Where do you tell these stories?
GAMES. Do you play any “homemade” games with the children? We used to play “Ready for Freddie” and “Big Bad Bear”, both of which my father would chase us all around the house. Familiar games strengthen family spirit.

SUNDAYS. I think there should be a Sunday routine. Several moments should repeat themselves week by week. First of all, Mass on Sunday . . . how do you get the family to Mass? (This can be messy, I know!). Secondly, food. There needs to be a time, at least on Sunday, where the family sits to eat a meal together. It doesn’t have to be elaborate. Even a quick plate of pancakes will do; just time together at a table with food and family conversation.

I know priests are notorious for their lack of real life experience of child raising. So why not send me your family routines of bedtime/story telling/Sundays/ and games? (I’m at: fhoran@dor.org).

I can put them into a bulletin sometime in the future. . . don’t worry, no names attached!.

Hope your week surprises you with joy.

Fr. Tim


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Papal Visit

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