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My son (2 and a half) watches about 3-6 hours of television a week at home (usually closer to 3 than 6). However, most of that time is spent watching the same shows or movies time and time again.

We generally let him pick what he wants to watch (so long as its something we approve of), and he has some clear favorites. However, even within those favorites, he'll have specific episodes that he wants to watch (for example, almost every time we watch Dinosaur Train, he'll want to watch the "spooky Night Train" episode; any time we watch Mighty Machines, he wants to watch either the train episode, or the race car episode).

It's the same way for movies: he has a handful of movies that he wants to watch over and over again.

I try to get him to watch new shows, rather than the same over and over, but he usually is very insistent that we watch the favorites instead. I feel that if he's going to watch TV, it should at least be something he can learn from, but how much does he learn if its the same show he's seen 20 times?

Granted, the movies aren't educational, but in those cases its more about my not wanting to have to sit through viewing #18 of Cars. With a movie, usually I can get him to watch something new if we can make it through the opening credits (during which he'll be protesting loudly, and sometimes on the verge of tears), but I usually relent if he gets too upset.

I want to ensure that my son grows up willing, or, better yet, eager, to try new things. Perhaps this is too early to really matter, but I'd still like to encourage him to try new things.

How can I best break him out of this pattern?

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    How'd you get away with only 18 viewings of Cars? :> I can recite that whole entire movie at this point (and Cars 2). Thank FSM Pixar understood that parents would be watching these things over and over and put in a few jokes for us, to make them palatable. – Valkyrie Mar 4 '13 at 15:05
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    We studied this in Psychology in college. Toddlers learn very differently than adults; watching the same movies/reading the same books over and over again is just how they learn. – BlueRaja - Danny Pflughoeft Mar 4 '13 at 18:01
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    Toddlers are the only age group that it's worth actually buying DVDs for! – Benjol Mar 8 '13 at 6:22
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    @FacebookAnswers That's not a particularly constructive comment. – user420 Mar 9 '13 at 0:06
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    For perhaps unwanted context: I am personally 25 and I still have the habit of often viewing things repeatedly, often things I've seen tens of times already - even recently. – Weckar E. Nov 23 '16 at 10:48
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Small kids can't process passive media such as TV very well. They get overloaded easily because unless the show is going slowly, their mental processing simply can't keep up with the pace of the show.

Because of this, they should be gently exposed to media.

In practical terms, that means they'll benefit more from watching the same episode over and over again until they feel that they've understood every moment of it - rather than watching a whole series (of whatever, but for instance Barbapapa, Teletubbies, [insert more toddler shows here]).

This also means that their media intake should be in small doses. I wouldn't recommend a toddler to sit through a 1½-2 hour movie, not even a brilliant one. In my opinion and experience, a two-year-old should not watch more than 5-8 minutes in one sitting. A 3-year-old, 10-15 minutes. Ramp it up slowly, and watch your child very carefully. When their eyes become glazed (nearly unfocused), or when they turn into the figurative couch potato, it's beyond time to turn off the telly and go play outside or with building blocks instead.

Don't force your eagerness onto him (yet). We adults can hardly wait to see how that cliffhanger resolved itself, or whodunnit this time, but kids don't have a natural desire to see the whole season, or to see the next episode, such as adults do. I don't think you should "break him out of his pattern" - he'll move on when he's ready.

You can train his eagerness to discover, and to try new things, much better with interactive toys and puzzles than you can with a passive consumer "activity" in front of the telly. Instead, find things that he can take apart and "dissect" them together with him, or build a Rube Goldberg machine out of his toys and see how big you can make it.

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    +1 for the benefit of repeated viewings. We definitely rely on interactive toys, puzzles, museum trips, reading, etc., for the bulk of his learning, but despite my idealistic expectations going into this whole parenting thing, TV does seem to have its place. It frequently serves as the starting point from which we find and develop his interests, picking interactive activities based upon topics he shows interest in after watching a show about it (this is how we developed his current interests in dinosaurs, animals, race cars, and trains). – user420 Mar 4 '13 at 16:21
  • Teletubbies understand the slow speed very well - it takes all four figures ten minutes to go through a door... – Thorbjørn Ravn Andersen Jul 29 '15 at 13:18
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This is perfectly normal and nothing to worry about. Kids that age often like to watch the same movies, read the same books, or play the same games over and over. Part of it is them controlling their environment, and some of it is the fact that they really like those movies, books, games, etc.

I'd advise against trying too hard to change that, if you push them too hard you may get the opposite effect. If you want your child to watch something different then you're best off sitting with them and telling them you want to watch this other show. Then if they like it they'll watch that one over and over instead.

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My short answer: wait it out. It took our daughter until she was about 4 to be willing to watch new things. Toddlers are comforted by routine, and part of that routine might be watching the same program over and over and over. As he matures, new things will be less distressing. Also, some kids are just plain more neo-phobic than others; our daughter is the my-way-or-the-highway type, but her brother is much more willing to try new things.

If he's at all motivated by rewards, you can try using a sticker chart and giving him a sticker each time he tries a new program. Earn enough stickers, and he gets a reward of some sort (extra time at the playground, a favorite snack, something like that). Our nearly two-year-old could care less about rewards yet, but his sister was all about her star chart at about 26 months and still finds stars very motivating.

  • I see how "you get extra time at the playground if you watch a TV episode you don't want to watch" might make some kids watch the TV episode, but I don't see how it could be good parenting. – Toxaris Jan 16 '17 at 0:18

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