"Again, Again!" These words may be familiar if you have an almost two-year-old in your house. Your 18-24 month old is likely engaging in some repetitive behaviors or routines that may be causing you to wonder, "Is this normal?" For the most part, the answer is "yes."


Toddlers enjoy repeating some activities over and over. This can be especially true if it is a new or fun skill that they have learned. They might insist on looking at the same book, playing with the same toy, or engaging in the same social game over and over. 


Repeating certain actions may give your toddler a sense of security and predictability about their environment. Toddlers also tend to like things "a certain way" especially if it involves their toys, food, or comfort objects. Toddlers will certainly let you know if things aren't the way they like it! The good news is that repetitive behaviors should begin to decrease around age 3-4 years. As always, talk to your pediatrician if you have concerns about your child's repetitive behaviors. 


Brain Science for Your Baby


Psychologists have known since the 1920's that otherwise normal toddlers can have lots of compulsive behaviors.  David Evans, Ph.D. at Bucknell University has studied the typical course of repetitive behaviors.  He found that parents estimated that the behaviors first appeared around the age of 18 to 21 months. Two, 3-, and 4- year olds had more rituals and repetitive and compulsive behaviors than babies under a year and children over 4. 


It has been somewhat more difficult to figure out "why" this phase is a normal phase in the preschool years.  What purpose does it serve?  Some psychologists have proposed that repetitive behaviors allow a child to gain mastery.  Others have thought that repetition serves a social-emotional need allowing the child to gain a sense of self-control and regulation of emotional states.  Or maybe, bedtime rituals allow your toddler to spend more time with you!   So reading that book for the hundredth time may be good for the developing brain for all kind of reasons.

A Baby Buffer Prescription for Your Baby
Recognize that some repetitive behaviors are part of normal development.

Encourage your toddler to explore their environment, and to get lots of movement during the day.


Continue to gently encourage your child to explore new toys, games, and objects.


Make sure your toddler is interacting with you during some part of the repetitive behaviors. You should be able to catch their eye, share a smile or other facial expression.


If repetitive behaviors are interfering with your toddler's ability to do other things, consider talking to your pediatrician


A Baby Buffer Prescription for You  


Do you have a routine to your day that helps to make sure that things get done that are important to you?  Having a routine can be a good way to manage your time, but remember that it's OK to take a detour from your plans to do something fun and unexpected with your toddler!


Try building time into your schedule for fun outings to the zoo, the park, or a play date with friends.  It's alright if everything on your "to do" list doesn't get done, you will never have this day with your toddler again!


If you are stressed out and need help, remember to ask a family member or a friend to watch your baby for you so that you can rest or get things done. 


What Your Baby Can Do - Developmental Milestones 


Children in this age range are moving away from their "baby" stage and toward the greater world that they have never been physically able to explore before. Talking, walking and asserting their independence are the hallmarks of this stage, developmentally. Children need to explore...we just need to help them do so safely!


Gene's Research Tip

Is TSK (That Special Kid) "on the job"?  If he or she seems to be playing a lot, then YES! Playing is TSK's job, and we hope he/she makes a great career of it, during these first few years!


Thinking is a complicated process, and involves lots of brain areas.  Some brain areas can't think as hard or as fast until TSK gets older, but, YOU, the parent can help that brain by the way you play with TSK. 


The science behind Playing and Brain Development:

Input: Information gets into the brain by the senses: Vision, Hearing, and Touch

Processing: The information goes all over the brain to processing centers to be understood and combined with emotions and other memories

Output: The actions, words and thoughts that TSK has developed from the experience.  These are generally divided into the following:

  • Muscle Activities - The "Doing Stuff" (Gross Motor- the big muscles, and Fine Motor - the fingers and hands)
  • Language - "The Talking Things"
  • Emotional-Social - "The Feeling and Behavior Parts" 
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