Just like kids learn to read or can run at different paces, not every child has the same capacity to remember facts. This part of the memory is called the “working memory” and refers to the daily memory people use to complete tasks, pay attention, and retain short-term facts.
Children with lower working memory capacities may have difficulty completing a sentence, adding two numbers together without writing them down, or following a two-step series of directions. This is not because they do not have the mental ability to complete these tasks, but because they have a less developed “working memory” capacity.
The good news is that memory can be expanded and a child’s capacity to remember also increases with age. A 4-year-old child may not have the same working memory capacity as an 8-year-old. What’s important is to set realistic expectations for your child based on age level, development, and how much improvement can really occur.
1. Utilize music as a memory tool. Help your child study by creating songs from well-known nursery rhymes or songs. Music can be an excellent memory tool and can be fun for your child as well.
2. Use colored pencils or pens to highlight important information. Colors can signify importance to a child. Have him or her write notes or create flashcards for a test by writing in different colors to emphasize words of greater importance. One suggestion could be to use the colors of a traffic light. Red could be words of greatest importance, followed by yellow and green.
3. Serve memory-boosting foods. Cruciferous or leafy vegetables, such as kale, broccoli, cabbage, or dark, leafy greens are associated with improved memory. So are berries, including blackberries, blueberries, and cherries because they contain anthocyanins. These compounds are associated with brain-boosting benefits. So are walnuts and foods packed with omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon, sardines and herring. Since these foods don’t often make kids list of food favorites, you can also try an omega-3 fatty acid supplement. Ask your child’s doctor about the appropriate dosage given your child’s weight and age.
4. Play “brain games.” From computer games that promote memory to the classic cup game of putting a ball in one of three cups and swapping them around, asking your child to identify where the ball is, memory games can be fun for kids. Examples of good memory games include remembering sequences or asking your child to repeat back a series of words or numbers.
Reviewed by Eva Benmeleh, March 2020
- Working memory refers to the amount of memory and tasks a child can remember at a time.
- A child with a lower working memory capacity may appear frequently distracted or as if he or she is not listening.
- Brain games, a healthy diet, and utilizing music as a memory device are tools that can help your child learn.