Ways to Boost Your Child’s Memory

Some fun exercises and tactics we can teach our children to increase their memory power
By Child Magazine

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Concentration and memorisation go hand in hand with learning. Our brains store new information by forming a specific neural pathway to where that information is stored. In order to recall that information correctly, we need to trigger our brain to follow the same pathway back to the information.
Sound complicated? According to experts, it really isn’t! Daren Denholm, four times Southern Hemisphere and African Continent Memory Champion,sayswe are all born with the same mental equipment but it’s how we use our brain that makes all the difference. Memory is much like muscle: the more you exercise it, the better it gets and helping our children to exercise their memories can make a huge impact on their ability to retain and retrieve information and improve their success at school. Stress and anxiety can severely impair memory retention so it is important to keep learning relaxed and exciting. Here are some fun memory games, tactics and tips, which are useful for developing concentration and boosting memory power.
Letter Logic
memory tool # 1 An acronym is a word that is formed using the first letters of other words and can be used effectively to remember a group of words that might otherwise be difficult to memorise on their own.
brain training Underline the first letter of each word you need to remember. Arrange the underlined letters to form your acronym. For example, if you need to remember the points on a compass, you might use the acronym NEWS (North, East, West and South). Acronyms can be a real or made up word, but acronyms that are easily pronounced are more effective. For example NEWS is a better acronym than NSEW. Acronyms can be used in reverse to remember the spelling of difficult words. Take a word, such as “because”, and create a fun sentence using the corresponding letters: Big Elephants Can Always Understand Small Elephants.
practice drill Children use acronyms everyday without even realising it. Test your child on the meaning of common ones such as ASAP, PTO and ATM. Ask your cellphone savvy child to teach you some common chat acronyms such as ROFL (Rolling On Floor Laughing), LOL (Laughing Out Loud) and BFF (Best Friends Forever).
Acrostically Speaking
memory tool # 2 An acrostic works in a similar way to an acronym by using the first letter of each word in a group of words you need to remember. Instead of making a new word, though, the letters are used to make a new sentence or poem, which often relates back to the original word. Humorous acrostics are easier for children to remember.
brain training Write down the first letter of each word you need to remember, then create of a sentence using words beginning with the same letters as the ones on your list. A common acrostic used to remember the nine planets Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto is My Very Eager Monkey Jumps Swiftly Under Nine Planets.
practice drill Children can have fun practising acrostics by using the letters of their name and the names of their friends. The resulting sentence or group of words should describe the person concerned. For example: GAIL might be Generous And Incredibly Loving or Gifted, Arty, Interesting, Lady
memory tool # 3 Rhyme, rhythm, repetition, alliteration and melody can all assist us in remembering facts by committing them to our auditory memory. Adding rhyme or melody to an acronym or acrostic makes it even more powerful than just speaking it, as it activates both sides of the brain.
brain training Singing the ABCs to the tune of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star or chanting “Thirty days has September, April, June and November” are examples of learning through rhyme and rhythmn. Take a list of words and ask your child to put a melody to them.
practice drill Try putting new words to Twinkle Twinkle Little Star to teach your child something. For example: We live in South Africa; 11 languages spoken here; Zulu, Xhosa, Afrikaans…
Let’s Make a List
memory tool # 4 Play a game by building a growing list with your child to practise your collective memory power.
brain training Each player takes a turn to remember one thing he saw or bought on an outing to the shops, park or beach. The next player repeats and adds to the list. For example: we went to the park and saw a ladybird; we went to the park and saw a ladybird and a tree; we went to the park and saw a ladybird, a tree and a dog… Keep taking turns and adding items to see how long the list can get and who remembers the most things on it.
practice drill This game can be played after any outing and the list can include anything you bought, saw or did. Change the intro and verb accordingly. For example: we went to the shop and bought apples, or we went to the beach and swam in the sea.
Making Sense of Learning
memory tool # 5 Involving multiple senses and combining left and right brain activity while learning gives you the most reward from your memory. Try combining colours, textures, music, smells and tastes when learning.
brain training Ask your child to close their eyes and visualise their work. Then ask them to describe it to you in vivid detail. What does it look like? What colour is it? Does it make any sounds? What does it say? What does it smell like? If it had a taste, what would that be? Get them to add humour and emotion to engage all the senses. Rewriting and reading text out loud is a more effective way of studying than just reading it silently as it involves multiple senses. Adding in coloured pens, diagrams and classical background music is even better!
practice drill Make your own Stroop test (a psychological measure of mental flexibility): write the names of colours in alternate-coloured inks, then ask your child to say only the colour and not read the word. For example, write “red’ using blue ink, then have her say the word as “blue”. By combining colour and language this exercise resolves conflict between the left and right hemispheres of the brain.
Mental Gymnastics
memory tool # 6 Word and number puzzles such as crosswords, Sudoku, riddles and maths trivia can help us think laterally, improve our concentration and train our brains to create new neural pathways, all important for boosting memory power.
brain training Killing time in the doctor’s waiting room? Keep a handbag-sized puzzle or trivia book (available at most bookshops and stationers) close by and take five minutes a day to do some brain gym with your child. Children as young as seven can begin solving simple Sudoku puzzles.
practice drill If all you have is a pen and paper, simple games like hangman, noughts and crosses, and incomplete sequences and patterns can work just as well. Tip: for our brains to get the most benefit, the puzzles need to be sufficiently challenging!
The Case of the Missing Object
memory tool # 7 Use household objects to create a fun memory game for children. This game tests their ability to concentrate and recall information. 
brain training Place five to 15 different household objects on a tray or table in random order. For younger children, choose a few bigger objects; for older children choose many smaller objects. Give them a minute to study the objects, then ask them to turn around while you remove an object. They must now identify the missing object.
practice drill Make the game easier by touching each object and naming it out loud before they turn around. If they are still battling, give them a clue by telling them the first letter of the missing object. Make the game more difficult by shuffling the remaining objects before the reveal.
Word Chains
memory tool # 8 Linking and chaining are effective tactics for remembering short to medium-length lists of words that don’t necessarily have to be remembered in order, such as shopping lists. 
brain training Start with your list of words and visualise each word. Link the first image with the second, then the second with the third, and so on. For example, if you need to remember to buy cat food, lettuce, soap and orange juice, you might imagine a cat with a lettuce balancing on its head, then a lettuce taking a bath and finally a bathtub filled with orange juice. The more crazy the images, the more you are likely to remember them.
practice drill Have fun with your children by writing lists of words and getting them to imagine and describe the crazy images. When you are done, see how many items they can remember from the list.
Cups of Fun
memory tool # 9 This game is a version of the classic memory card game Concentration or Pairs, but is a little more fun.
brain training Take an even number of plastic or polystyrene party cups. You should have at least 8 cups per player. Gather enough matching pairs of household objects such as buttons, small toys or dried beans. Place one object under each paper cup. Players take it in turns to lift two cups. If the objects match, they remove them. The winner is the one with the most objects at the end of the game.
practice drill Raise the stakes by mixing coins and small treats in amongst the household objects. Each player gets to keep the treats he matches from memory.
Do the Loci-Motion
memory tool # 10 The Method of Loci is an ancient memory technique in which facts, words or numbers are assigned to places along a familiar path or route. It works on the assumption that you can best remember places or routes that you are familiar with, so linking things you need to remember with these locations will trigger your memory.
brain training Make a list of 10 words for your child to remember in order. Write them on pieces of paper and then walk with him on the path he would normally take in your house to get from the front door to his bedroom, placing a word at various locations along the way, such as on the couch, kitchen counter and piano. Say the words aloud together as you place them. When you are done, ask her to visualise the walk you just took and to say the words as she remembers them.
practice drill For older children this exercise can be done mentally without actually walking through the house. By visualising the journey and mentally linking words with objects along the way, she should he able to remember the words. Adding another memory tactic such as alliteration or sensory stimulation will improve the results.


patricia taljaard wrote 4 years 11 weeks ago

Love it - thanks.

Melanie Scheepers wrote 4 years 12 weeks ago

WOW! I love this article. My baby is only a year old, but I so enjoyed this. Back to the school board. Keep up the great work.

admin wrote 4 years 12 weeks ago

Thanks for your kind words.

Thuliswa wrote 5 years 2 weeks ago

This is very useful, I am looking forward to trying out the memory games with my kids. Regards

Siphokazi Tchalieu wrote 5 years 7 weeks ago

I'm a mom of two girls, 7 and 5 years old. I've been reading Child magazine for a while now. It's just so much easier now to be able to access the content on the go. Many thanks.

admin wrote 5 years 7 weeks ago

We're happy to hear that, Siphokazi.

Pen wrote 6 years 27 weeks ago

I am so pleased to have found this site!
At last I can print and save articles relevant to my teacher training course without having to cut and paste my monthly Child Mag.
Thank you.

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