Repetition is critical for learning new skills. Its how mastery occurs. This is true for a child learning to roll over or for a basketball player who wants to make the varsity team. Its only through practice that they will learn the skills. Now, most children don’t realize they are practicing as they begin to develop new gross motor skills, its just a natural progression for them if they are provided the opportunity. For instance, if your child is in a bouncy or car seat a lot, they don’t have as many opportunities to practice as a child who gets to spend time on the floor for a significant portion of each day. This PT Journal article looks at the effects of practice conditions on motor skill acquisition.
In addition to opportunity, you will also have different personalities that will influence their practice. I also touch on this topic in ‘How Resilient is Your Child?‘ Some kids will be determined to do something and will keep going and going until they have succeeded. Other kids will attempt, not get it, and decide ‘ah, who needs to roll over, I’m kind of content right here.’ Usually they get their needs met by crying or vocalizing or because their caregiver moves them. This deprives them of opportunities to practice. Check out ‘Tips on Encouraging Motor Development in Infants‘ for more information on what I am attempting to convey in the previous two paragraphs!
As your child gets a little older, and maybe the tasks become a little more challenging, I have found its important to find the right balance of encouraging them to practice something so that they get it correct and not discouraging them because they still haven’t mastered the skill or task. I know I am in a unique situation because I am working with kids on developing their gross motor skills or higher level coordination skills and its necessary to sometimes do the same thing over and over. This is how I discovered the word ‘Redo!’
‘Redo’ is a phrase most of my kiddos quickly become familiar with. In fact, after a while they will start saying it before I do. Why is this a great thing? Well for me I have found that when learning a new skill it requires a lot of practice to get comfortable with it and even more to master it. Well by using ‘redo’ it becomes a fun way for the child to do it over again if they didn’t quite do what they were supposed to do (in terms of the skill).
An example of this is when I work on teaching a child how to jump off of a step (usually as low as 1-2 inches to start). In the beginning they want to step down with an extra bounce in their knees. Instead of telling them they did it wrong, I usually make a joke saying, ‘Was that two feet… Nooo. Redo!’ Its surprising how funny they find this. I guess it could be my tone of voice that makes them laugh as well! Its amazing though because instead of getting frustrated the majority of the time they are laughing over the fact that they have to do it again! Make limits though because otherwise you could continue ad nausea on the same skill.
This reminds me of the old saying, ‘practice makes perfect.’ This is not to say that perfection is expected but in order for your children to learn, grow and develop repetition and practice is required. We can support them by creating opportunities in their physical environment as well as keeping them motivated to continue to practice until they get it and achieve success. My use of ‘Redo’ is one way to not discourage while still getting the desired result. You may have something different that works best for your child but I have found that making it as much like play and involving play is a sure-fire way to success!