How repeated experiences enable learning to take place

Have you ever thought about how we learn, not just the characteristics of effective learning which are part of our EYFS curriculum, but how learning actually takes place in our brains?

I like to think about how our brains make connections, or synapses are formed, as if someone walks through a grassy field that no one has walked through before.  A connection is made, you can see where the footsteps have pressed down the grass, but it is not permanent. If we were to walk along that pathway through the field again and again, the grass would disappear and a clear pathway would emerge.  Through repetition this path has become permanent.   It’s the same for us when we learn something. The first time we experience something our brains respond to the sensory stimuli and we make connections between our neurons, our brain cells. When we repeat this experience, we forge this connection and it becomes permanent.

Let’s think about what this means in terms of young children…It’s that moment when Sarah, a happy two year old, brings you the same book that you have already read many times that day and wants you to read it again!  You groan, roll your eyes and try to direct her to a different book.  But actually, reading the same book again is exactly what her little brain needs to make those connections and forge those links.  She is learning through repeated experiences.

Or Charlie, the 18 month old who displays behaviour that could be called schematic, when he drops his cup again and again and plays that game when you pick up the cup and give it back where he immediately throws it to the floor again!  This repeated behaviour, this trajectory schema, is actually all about learning. He is learning through repeated experiences.

It is also about Amiya who loves to sing and dance and requests the ‘turtle song’ again. You have sung this several times already during the session and are beginning to find it tedious, but she is determined to sing it for the nth time!  She is learning through repeated experiences.

So read that same book again, pick up the cup again and sing the turtle song again!  Remember that it is through these repeated experiences that learning takes place.

About the author

Useful Childcare Contacts and resources

Tamsin Grimmer is an experienced early years consultant and trainer and parent who is passionate about young children’s learning and development. She believes that all children deserve practitioners who are inspiring, dynamic, reflective and committed to improving on their current best. Tamsin particularly enjoys planning and delivering training and supporting early years practitioners and teachers to improve outcomes for young children.

You can contact Tamsin via Twitter @tamsingrimmer, her Facebook page , website or email info@tamsingrimmer.co.uk

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