When you were little, you probably did this as well. Sometimes kids like to watch the same multiple times a day, everyday for months. Why do they like to do that?
The following answers to the above question are from three individuals and they are the best rated on the internet. The last one is much more in-detail than the others.
Young children love repetition, whether it’s watching a video or listening to song lyrics, because it’s the best way for them to acquire and master new skills. In order to learn something well, children this age practice it until they get it right, hence the repeated watching.
What is your child practicing by repeatedly watching a video? It depends on the video, of course, but it could be that he doesn’t yet understand the story line. And the more he watches, the better he’s able to understand. Maybe he’s fascinated by programs that feature songs and dancing and wants to practice the movements while singing along. Young children are almost always in the process of mastering basic skills while they play.
Once your child has mastered a video’s dialog or song lyrics or movements, he/she wants to celebrate his/her success by participating in what he’s/she’s seeing, so he/she’ll continue to watch. She/He will probably announce the next plot sequence or song (in his head or out loud); for children this age, making correct predictions is the ultimate form of mastery. Since life is fairly unpredictable for them, they especially relish feeling competent and in control of what’s coming next. Soon they see it and recognize it from the diaspora of the rest of their experience. That feeling of recognition is comforting because the brain wants it that way.
Here’s the current, scientific understanding. Young kids learn best this way! It’s fun, but it also allows them to repeat things until they sink in. Lots of fun play is really just practicing skills you’ll need as a grownup!
Also, they are learning how to control their world. With storybooks, they are learning how the pictures tell the story, and before they start reading they discover that those funny groups of ABC shapes mean something special to Mommy and Daddy. Of course, nothing ever changes with videos – except it does! They can notice new things. Ever watch a movie, and not realize something that went on in the background, or miss a character’s quick reaction until the second viewing? Little kids are doing that, only with the main character’s exaggerated reactions. They’re absorbing social and emotional clues from the “people” on the video. But since they aren’t as good at it as older kids, they keep practising. So, they’re not directly learning to control their world, but they are studying how others provide important clues to what others are thinking and feeling.
This can be taken to an extreme. The great animal researcher Dr. Temple Grandin is autistic, and in her autobiography she says the other kids called her “tape recorder” because she would repeat a single phrase over and over and over and over – any phrase. She wasn’t “dumb”; as an autistic person emotional clues in voice inflections were especially hard for her to understand, and she might have been rehearsing the word, trying to find clues to those emotions she had problems detecting.
Finally, the kid’s show Blues Clues was based on this research. The originators learned that kids learned best with lots of repetition, and proposed a kind of kid show that would repeat the exact same episode every day for a week. Kids could tune in on Tuesday through Friday, and practice everything they learned on Monday. It was a HUGE hit because of this! Little kids loved it.
As a child, they’re still learning a lot of things, so much is not understood and unpredictable. A movie or a show gives them the ability to think about what is going to happen, and then have the show confirm the result.
As an adult, we have learned a lot of things. Our ability to predict the result is not fun because it’s not surprising. The kids shows are simple and predictable, and the joy that we get from confirmation of that prediction is minor because it’s a certainty.
As an adult, I find myself watching the same shows with my daughter over and over. I find myself looking for details, whether it’s trying to build a map of the island in my head in Puffin Rock, or pick out the individual theme songs of the various creatures in Dinosaur Train. Or finding patterns that show changes in the show’s production. I do this because I’m searching for fun, though it’s a bit more work on my behalf, but it’s essentially the same thing that my daughter finds fun in on the surface.
I have a method of guessing what the result is going to be. I know early in the season the production is less regular about playing the theme music for the characters, but has more location and mood based music, while later in the season the character music is dominant, less music is written, and it’s generally more thematic. So early in the season they have music for watching the sun set or walking around on the train, or exploring a new place. Later in the season the music follows the person talking, or it’s the intro theme to the type of story it is (under the sea for instance), but you rarely see music that imparts mood or minor activities, and there’s less music written for a specific incident in a single episode.
I like watching shows with my daughter, I’ve never been the person to just sit her down in front of the TV and go and do my own thing. This means I get to see this, and struggle to find something that interests me. But I still do the same thing, recognize the pattern, predict the result, and feel good when I’m right. For my daughter, it’s the same, but the pattern that she recognizes is trivial to me.
I think it’s very similar to how you develop a taste for music. If you’re unfamiliar with a genre of music, it’s the more ‘pop’ type of music that is appealing. The more popular music is generally simpler, so the patterns are easy to see and predict and get validation for quickly. These kinds of songs are catchy and easy to sing along to even the first time you hear them. It’s kind of fun when a song has a part that you can sing along to, because you can quickly make the prediction that the next verse is going to sound like this one, and get validated. You’re smart, you figured out the pattern.
But as you get more interested in the genre, that catchy music gets dull. It’s predictable. It’s boring. There are other genres of music that have more complex elements to them, but which are common to the genre or the artist. You start to learn these elements and can predict them, and that’s exciting and fun, and you’re understanding it in a deeper way than you could before. As you get deeper into the understanding of these mechanics, you start to appreciate things that a naive observer wouldn’t even have the basis to understand.
This results in things like appreciation of art that is like 4 bands of color but people are willing to buy it for 75 million dollars. Because the people who are looking at it and appreciating it have so much more background that they’re using to evaluate the piece. The naive observer can’t start to even relate to the people who love it. At the same time, the people who love it can’t really relate to the people who appreciate much more accessible amateur art.
The child likes the same movie every day because there’s a lot for them to get out of it.
The adult is just way past the child in terms of what is filtered out and what is remembered and how easily it’s remembered, and how predictable the outcomes of the characters in a children’s show will be that they run out of that excitement quickly, and essentially can’t appreciate it at the same level as a child.
In the same way, many adult shows, with their level of complexity and nuance, can be very boring and confusing to a child because they don’t have the tools to learn and make these predictions and be rewarded for them.
Layering it can help. For instance, if my daughter were to watch a television show that had in the background a bit of a backstory that took a bit of work to put together, created out of hints and things at the periphery of the action, then it would be kind of fun to watch it over and over. The first time through the series you might pick up on some of those subtleties, and then over the course of watching it a few times you might be able to put together what’s really going on behind the scenes. Meanwhile, the child might not even be aware of that deeper story, they can enjoy the basic story.
Peppa Pig does this a bit by cheekily using Ms. Rabbit for pretty much every odd job out there. In something like Paw Patrol, my wife and I have made up backstories to explain away Ryder’s resources, and Mayor Goodway’s incompetence. One idea is Ryder is a juvenile god who is practicing at creating his own world. Another is that it’s a bit of a Coma dream where Ryder fell into a coma during the messy divorce of his parents, represented by Mayor Goodway and Mayor Hummdinger.
But what I’m searching for by playing these little games and taking note of these meta-details is basically the same thing as my daughter gets. And it’s a lot of the same types of content that is directly served to me by a show like Westworld.
Note that some of the movies or shows that you as an adult might like to watch multiple times are typically because there are new things you might learn every time you watch them. Consider also that kids are just a lot less skilled at picking up on those things in the same way, so they can watch the same thing over and over and continue to build on their understanding of it.
It’s not every video. Give a child a show that is a simple 3 minute video and try and have them watch it every day for an hour. You’ll still have a hard time keeping their attention for the first hour. They’ll get bored because there’s nothing new for them to figure out.