A good memory is the sign of a healthy, well-functioning brain. Whether your child is trying to sing “twinkle twinkle” or memorizing the Quit India Movement, use our 8 Memory Tools and Techniques to boost your child’s memory.
Our brain memorises data by creating neural pathways to where the information is stored. In order to remember that information accurately, the brain needs to be triggered to follow the same pathway back to the information. Memory is just like a muscle – the more it is exercised, the better it will work. Encouraging your child to exercise his memory will prompt his brain to retain and recall information much quicker.
What is Memory?
Memory is the mental capacity or faculty of retaining and reviving facts, events, and impressions. Memory consists of three stages: Short-term Memory, or the ability of the mind to store data for a few seconds; Active Working Memory, or the ability of the brain to store and process the data for a few minutes; and Long-term Memory, or the ability of the mind to recall the stored information over a prolonged period of time.
For instance, when asked to copy words from the blackboard, kids need to first remember the order of each letter of each word, then write the spellings of the words (from memory) without looking up at the board for each letter, and later maybe recall and reuse those words in a spelling test a few days later. Some people may have better short term memory while others may have a better long term memory or vice-versa. Moreover, some people may just have better recall and retrieve brain function than others.
We cannot deny the fact that there may be some people with photographic memories. In other cases, there are people who understand the subject matter so well that they may not need any memory aid other than their own understanding. However, even in such cases, these unconsciously using some special techniques that aid their memory. The good news is that these techniques can be learnt.
Memory Skills and your Child
Memory is one of the vital determinants of your child's performance at and all throughout his life. So why does your child end up forgetting important data? Our school brain is bombarded with thousands of facts each day. All the information is accessible for a short period of time. After that, the nuggets of information that were not imprinted deeply enough are forgotten. The key to memory enhancement lies in ensuring that the important bits are retained.
It is said that you cannot teach an old dog new tricks. But in the case of improving your child’s memory, the old saying is simply incorrect! The human brain has an extraordinary ability to mould and reshape itself at any age. So whether your child is 3 or 13, use our memory tools to harness his brainpower and improve his success at school and in life.
Mnemonics is one of the commonly used systems for improving memory and information retention. Here are some techniques that you can use to improve your child’s memory and boost his brainpower:
Memory Tool 1: Acronyms
An acronym is an abbreviation for a set of words. Your child can learn the names of organisations or a set of names of scientists or a set of names of places by making up acronyms for them. Thus, for a science experiment, apparatus, procedures, observations and conclusion can be APOC. This may be rearranged to form PACO or CAPO. Another idea is to pick out the keywords in a long answer and then make up an acronym for the keywords. This way the entire answer can be recalled.
Memory Tool 2: Acrostics
In acrostics, you take the first letter of each of the words in the list you want to remember, and then make a sentence with words starting with those letters. This is useful for remembering longer sets of words. For example, if you wish to remember Anorak, Hat, Raincoat, Windcheater, Screen, Gumboots, and Umbrella, in that order, you can convert this into a sentence like a hot roast with sugar gladdens us. It is easier to recall a sentence than a list of items, which may be unrelated.
Memory Tool 3: Poems and Songs
Your child may find it easier to remember her answers if she finds the sentences rhyming. Alternatively, you can teach them to her in a singsong manner, perhaps to the tune of 'Twinkle twinkle'. This inspires creativity and makes the learning process entertaining.
Memory Tool 4: Loci Method
This can be an effective method for extremely long lists or answers. It is particularly useful as it employs visual imagery as well. Ask your child to select a path that he or she takes every day, the path to school for example. Now ask him to associate an object in his path with an item on his list. For example, there is a lamp post on his way. The item on his list is 'wind'. Have him imagine a wind blow so strong that the lamp post falls. Suppose the next object is a series of steps, and the subsequent item a kite. Imagine the kite bouncing up each step with a little of its tail cut off every time. The association can be as nonsensical or meaningful as you wish.
Memory Tool 5: Chunking
A person can remember seven (plus or minus two) items, especially numbers, with ease. Hence, if you have a very long string of numbers, try creating chunks of a few digits together instead of struggling with the whole number. If your number is 12256888305, break it up into 1225 6888 305. Alternatively, try having your child remember it as December, square of 16, three fat ladies, and his sister's birth date (30 May).
Memory Tool 6: Visual Associations
If your child is trying to remember some formulae or any other similarly dry information, encourage your child to use his imagination to vividly give life to each item or object in the data. Then ask him to make a story around all those imaginary characters and how they connect or interact with each other.
For instance, when teaching your child that water is composed of two hydrogen and one oxygen atoms, ask him to visualise two dragons doing high jumps (high + 2 dragons = 2 Hydrogen atoms) along with a new generation ox who can jump and swim (ox + generation = 1 Oxygen atom), to jump into a swimming pool (Water = H2O!) This bizarre image will be stuck in your child’s mind for a long time, thereby ensuring that he will never forget the composition of water!
While it may seem too far-fetched and unproductive to waste so much time on making a story, not only will the dry and boring information find a favourable home in your child’s brain, but it will also teach your child to make up such imaginary stories on his own to retain any sort of dull but important information in the future!
Memory Tool 7: Sleep
A new study has found that the more important we perceive certain information to be, the higher the chances are that we will review it in our sleep. And once it is reviewed in our sleep, the higher the changes that you will remember it. Scientists claim that the brain converts short term memory into long term memory when the person is asleep and completely relaxed. Therefore insist that your child gets 8 hours of sleep every night! Set a regular bedtime and ensure that your child follows it every night to prevent bedtime from becoming battle time!
Memory Tool 8: Good Old Rote
All said and done, mnemonics can be used to jog your child's memory. But a large part of the portion has to be learnt by rote. This is however not as difficult as it sounds. The trick is to not read up too much at a time. Tackle one chapter or even half a chapter in one sitting. Revision is of utmost importance. Have your child go through what he learnt at least thrice at different intervals before the exams. The mantra to remembering clearly is the 3Rs—read, revise, and recall.
Numerous factors go into enabling information retention and effective recall. Studying in a well-lit atmosphere, freshness of mind, a healthy diet, physical activity, all this plays a role as well. As your child gets the feel of these techniques, he may come up with a few of his own. When your child understands that studying smart is as important as studying, learning becomes fun.
Does your child have a good memory? What do you do to help him remember important information? What tips and tricks can you use to help improve your child’s memory? Discuss here.
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- The Indiaparenting Team