Why Do Kids Watch the Same Thing Over and Over?

If you're tired of watching the same thing on repeat with your kids, read on for why it's normal and what it means.

Don’t you get tired of watching this?” is a question that you have likely asked your child more than once during the thousandth time you’ve put on the movie Frozen. Strangely enough, while it may drive us crazy (when “Let It Go” creeps into nightmares), it is quite common for kids to want to watch the same movies again and again without getting bored.

We asked some experts our favorite question: Why?

They are learning

Arthur Lavin, chair of the American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Psychosocial Aspects of Child and Family Health, says that when kids watch the same movie over, they are mastering a skill, much like how they’d practice learning to walk by getting up, falling down and doing it all over again.

“All kids are born completely unable to do anything,” Lavin says. “Their natural inclination when they are learning something is to want to do it over and over — that’s how they learn every single skill. You name it, that’s how they learn it. Repetition is the pathway to go from having no skill to mastered skill.”

Dr. Jerry Bubrick, senior psychologist at the Child Mind Institute Anxiety Disorder Center, says that when children engage in this behavior, their curiosity is awakened.

“The first time they watch a movie, they might not pick up on anything besides the plot. But the next few times, they add more to their understanding and can focus on and learn about different parts of the movie because they already know what happens at the end,” Bubrick says.

Repetition is comforting

Because life for a young child can be overwhelming, Bubrick says they might also find comfort in watching the same thing on repeat as an attempt to self-soothe. Additionally, this type of constant also provides a sense of security to children.

“It’s comforting to have things be familiar and routine,” Bubrick says. “In your child’s favorite movie, there are no surprises. This can be reassuring and comforting to them because they know everything that happens next.”

Participation is key

Bubrick suggests that another reason children might like to watch the same thing for the umpteenth time is because they feel a sense of community through what they are watching. They like to get to know the characters, the dialogue and the songs, which gives them the opportunity to be an active participant and like it even more.

Limiting screen time

Experts agree that if your child spends an excessive amount of time in front of the TV or another screen it may be time to impose some limits.

“If their main source of socialization, entertainment and education all come from the same screen, it is a problem,” Bubrick says. “A screen should never replace face to face contact with friends, family or going outside.”

The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests that for children older than 2 years, media limits are very appropriate and screen use should be limited to no more than one hour per day of high-quality programming.

“Families should develop screen plans for their children,” Bubrick says. “Often times, this works best when screen time is earned and is contingent on getting other things done— like chores or homework — first.”

He suggests using the AAP’s Family Media Plan to help with this effort. This interactive tool includes a Media Time Calculator that can give you a snapshot of how much time each child is spending on daily activities, such as sleeping, eating, homework, physical activity and media use.

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