How We Can Learn From The Science Of Sesame Street

Colette Kelly -  How to How to learn from the Science of Sesame Street

Why little kids love copying and repeating.

In my last article I shared some Bubble games for little kids. Today I will be covering why kids love repetition.

Again! Again! Again! This excited cry from kids is enough to make even the most dedicated parent sigh in exasperation.

Kids need to repeat things over and over again in order to master a new skill or memorise a line in a song. When they accomplish this, they want to celebrate their newly acquired skill and will therefore continue to repeat the same play or watch the same movie again and then be able to predict what is going to happen next and with this their confidence grows …

This is known as iteration.

Iteration is the act of repeating a process with the aim of approaching a desired goal, target or result. It is also known as Amiration. Each repetition of the process is also called an “iteration“, and the results of one iteration are used as the starting point for the next iteration.

Iteration is used by children’s program producers like Sesame Street and if you look you will see it in the likes of the Teletubbies and all the children’s favourites.

My daughter is no longer a toddler and yet she’ll happily sit and watch the same program over and over again.

Tune into any children’s television channel and you will see that they will often have the same program scheduled to appear multiple times in one day.

Why is this?

Us adults groan when we see the same program schedule to appear a day or week after we’ve seen it. We are constantly seeking new stimulus.

The simple fact is that kids absolutely love repetition.

Colette Kelly's How to learn from the Science of Sesame Street


Well, that is only partially true. What kids do when something is repeated over and over again, is learn more about the same thing in order to fully understand it. With other words, each time they repeat a song or watch a movie, they will learn a certain aspect, when the song or the movie is repeated, they don’t learn the same thing again, they learn something additional that builds to their full understanding or memorising of the song or the movie.

In their everyday life everything that happens is unpredictable and they have little to no control over what is happening around them. So when something is repeated, like daily dressing, eating and bathing routines, they can predict what’s coming next and they feel secure. Repetition is a child way of learning about the world around them and it builds their trust and confidence.

How does this knowledge help you as a Children’s Entertainer?

Learning and mastering new skills leads to children feeling ‘successful’. You can use this natural desire in children to want to learn to your advantage when performing. By repeating phrases, affects or gags, children are able to learn and memorise your phrase or effect and is therefore able to predict what’s coming next, leaving them feeling successful and enjoying the whole experience so much more. Kids will watch you when they understand what is going on and they will disengaged when they are confused.

I use repetition within the first 10 minutes of my birthday party show for under 5’s. This makes them feel really comfortable and confident early on and sets the scene for the rest of the party.

How do I do it?

Use songs and games that kids already know. They get a great confidence boost when they are already familiar with what you introduce. They know what to expect!

Head shoulders knees and toes is a song that most under 5’s will know and love. The repetition and actions are familiar and something they have already mastered. Their feelings of ‘success’ builds their trust in me as a performer.

I have put a comedy spin on this all time favourite by eliminating the ‘heads’ bit in the second verse and replacing it with a big raspberry blow. In the third verse I eliminate ‘heads and shoulders’ and replace with the raspberry blow and so on. For the last verse I get the children to sing the words as loudly as they can. They burst out into loud song which always brings a smile to not only my face but to all the parents in the room.

Weave this repetition throughout your performance and you are onto a winner.

Furthermore, this knowledge comes in really handy for when you get the mum that phones and enquires whether you do a different show as their child has seen you at a party before. I actually tell parents that I can guarantee their child will enjoy the show even more than the last time they’ve seen it!

Being able to engage little kids through repetition is a huge step in the success of entertaining the under 5’s. But repetition on its own won’t guarantee those belly laughs that we delight in. In my next article I will cover what makes little kids laugh. Be sure not to miss it.