Facebook Tracking

The Power of New

"New" is not just nice--it's ideal for learning!

Dr. Pam Schiller, author of Start Smart, shares the latest research on how novelty impacts the learning of new concepts. She also offers her own suggestions for using novelty to stimulate learning at home and in the classroom.

Novelty and the Brain

The brain pays close attention to things that do not fit an established pattern, things that are new, and things that are different. What the brain is accustomed to becomes routine and, over time, the brain reacts to a routine stimulus by lowering the level of activity. Anything new causes the body to release adrenaline, and adrenaline acts as both a memory fixative and a stimulus for alertness.

Researchers have found additional brain benefits to novelty. Novelty stimulates activity in a number of brain systems, especially the dopamine system. This system, which is deep in the brain stem, sends the neurotransmitter dopamine to locations across the brain. Many people incorrectly think of dopamine as the "feel-good" neurotransmitter because drugs that create euphoria cause an increase of dopamine in particular parts of the brain. However, a growing body of new research shows that dopamine acts as an "I want more" neurotransmitter.

Using Novelty to Stimulate Learning
(Alertness and Memory)
Experiences and Activities for Preschool Children

  • Create new verses to songs, and sing old ones to different tunes. Try singing "Itsy Bitsy Spider" to the tune of "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star" and vice versa.
  • Challenge the children to work puzzles with the pieces upside down. Have the children string beads on pieces of yarn that hang from the ceiling. Challenge the children to ride tricycles or bicycles backward.
  • Follow the daily routine backward one day. Children really get a kick out of this!
  • Rearrange the children's toys and equipment every so often. Let the children help if they express an interest in doing so. Note: Be sure the children are ready for this; too much change can be upsetting.
  • Rotate the toys in the children's play area. Put some things away for a couple of months, and then bring them out again. Try rotating books on the library shelf.
  • Tape paper under a table or to a window, and invite the children to color on the paper with crayons or markers. Cut easel paper into creative shapes for the children to draw or paint on.
  • Combine things in unexpected ways. Try putting the dishes with the blocks or Legos with the art supplies. Stand back and watch how the children incorporate these items into their play.
  • Read a book backward. Sometimes it will even make sense!
  • Bring the children outside or to another room for snack or lunch. Make it a picnic.
  • Switch roles with the children. Let them read to you or decide what to eat.
  • Encourage the children to nap with their heads at the opposite ends of their mats.
  • Take a walk in the neighborhood and invite the children to try walking backward.


For simple, straightforward information and ideas to boost brain power in young children with active exploration, repetition, sensory discovery, laughter, and more, check out Start Smart by Pam Schiller, PhD.

Related Products