How to Teach your Children different Memory Techniques
As a parent, your main job is preparing your kids for life as adults. You have to teach them everything from how to treat others to how to tie their shoes, and the minutia can get overwhelming, especially when you feel like you’re fighting an uphill battle. One of the more frustrating problems parents and kids can encounter is forgetfulness. When it comes to remembering things kids aren’t always experts yet. Between forgetting their coat at school, not remembering their chores, and just going blank for a big test, it can get pretty stressful. While nobody can ever have a perfect memory, there are some tips and tricks that work for almost anyone to get an edge on the memory game.
Types of memory
Before you start on the path of learning memory techniques it’s important to understand how memories work. There are two basic types of memory that your child is endowed with, a short-term memory for things they need to remember right now but likely won’t need again (like a short shopping list) and a long-term memory for things they need to remember for a long time like their address, their parents phone numbers, and things they are learning in school. Boosting long-term memory is hard but still a worthwhile endeavor if you can find tricks that work, but most of the methods you’ll find for sparking a memory that can be recalled again are super useful only for short-term memory needs.
Methods to remember
When most people think about how to memorize something they think about learning by rote memory, that is just repeating the information over and over until you can remember it without trouble. We have all done this with a phone number or a password, but you may have noticed that this trick doesn’t really last that long. Anyone who has had to look up the number for the pizza place every time you order knows this, even if you can recall it a few minutes later, by a week or two after it’s gone and you have to do it again. The reason that rote memory doesn’t work well is the information is detached from any context needed to recall it later.
Associative memory techniques are completely different than rote learning in that they give your brain some help in finding your way back to what you were trying to remember, just like breadcrumbs dropped along with your path in the forest, you can trace your way back to where you were going.
When you are teaching your child to use associative memory techniques it’s important to get them on the right path by giving them instruction to use everything they have already. For example, using all your senses can help you create associations that will guide you towards the information. Use their sense of touch, sight, and hearing. For example, using a different movement for each item on a list, or writing down what they need to know so they can read it out loud to you.
Another way to help your child use more than one sense to remember things is making flashcards. The act of making them in itself involves movement and sight, and then using them brings it full circle with visuals and voice. Flashcards can be useful for memorizing basic math facts, and spelling words, but also for more complex ideas like historical figures or putting things in their proper sequence.
Imagination power station
Encourage your child to use their imagination to create a visual of what they need to remember. If they need to remember to bring home certain things from school, have them create an imaginary picture of everything so they can imagine that picture and make a mental checklist when it’s time to come home.
When reading encourage your child to stop every so often and take time to imagine the scene they are reading. Using all five senses describe the scene, and then try to think of the feelings the characters are having. This can cement in their mind what is going on in the book and help them later to recall specific passages if needed.
Mnemonic devices are a great way to connect information together, we have all learned ways to remember processes using these especially multistep things like order of operations or lists that must go in order like the colors of the rainbow. Using a mnemonic device can help you remember a list of things, for example, if you need to go to the store and get milk, eggs, tissues, and artichokes, you might think “M.E.A.T.” for Milk, Eggs, Artichokes, and Tissues.
Another way to help remember things for longer periods of time is to use a mind map. Making connections between things can help you to remember by forcing your brain to leave your hints. Going back to that grocery list you might connect milk and eggs because they are likely near each other in the store, and then artichokes because they come from the farm like milk and eggs.
Learning to flex your memory muscles is easier if you’ve built them up in the beginning and one of the easiest ways to help boost memory is by playing games. Young children may like to play the game memory where you put cards face down on a table and then try to match them up, while older kids will benefit from other types of games that require strategies like spades, or rummy.
Remember not to put too much pressure on your child, because stress can negatively affect the brain’s ability to remember things at all. If your child is still struggling after you’ve tried these tricks, it might be time to visit the doctor, there are conditions that affect executive functioning that may require other interventions. Memory skills can take a while to build up and keeping them sharp requires maintenance so work every day a little bit and you’ll soon see progress.