Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Tip 7 - Memory Magic

Games you can play with your child to help build memory skills are:

Concentration - ages 5 - adult -- builds visual working memory -- With a common deck of cards turn them face down on a table. Each person gets a chance to turn over two cards at a time when it is their turn. If the cards match, the player gets to keep that pair and gets another opportunity to turn over two more cards.

Going on a trip -- ages 6 - 12 --builds auditory working memory -- With a few players start on a trip where the first person chooses to take something that starts with the letter A, the next person has to remember the item that started with the letter A and think of an object to take that starts with a letter B. The next player has to recall both the A and B objects and add something that starts with a letter C and so on. Keep going as far through the alphabet as possible. (This game is fun to play on long car rides).

Modified scavenger hunt - ages 7--16 --builds visual and spatial memory - Draw a map with clues placed under objects around a room. Show the map to players who will have to remember all the objects they have to turn over in the correct order. For example, the first clue might be under a chair cushion, the second clue under a flower pot, the third clue behind the TV and so on. One or more children look at the map and try to hold all the clue locations in their mind as they pick up the clues. All the clues will be needed to find the prize - for example the clues might read 1. "a hard floor", 2."lots of white", 3. " no curtains nearby", 4 "metal", 5." in a drawer", 6. "at the bottom".  In this case the prize was in a bottom, pots and pan drawer in the kitchen -- all the clues were helpful to solve the puzzle but remembering the map where the clues were hidden was essential.

All ages -- If you go shopping with your children along you can make a memory game out of that as well by asking each person to remember a few things to purchase at the store. See if each family member can remember more than the time before each time they go shopping and post the name of the "champion shopping list master" on the refrigerator each week.

Why play memory games?

Children who do well in school, especially in the early grades, are often children with good short term memory. They can easily remember and follow directions, they can remember newly learned words easily, they can remember things they hear and read. The type of short term memory we use for activities like reading a book and holding on to items on a shopping list until we can get to the store is called working memory. Working memory is a term first proposed by the English Psychologist Alan Baddeley a few decades ago and has been of interest to brain scientists ever since The reason that working memory seems so important is that it may underlie many school achievement problems but, when exercised, may increase our capacity to solve problems and plan for the future. Suzanne Jaeggi and her colleagues at University of Michigan have shown that when typical adults exercise their working memory for just a few minutes a day, their problem solving skills improve significantly.

Children who do not have particularly good working memory skills are at a disadvantage in school because so much early learning depends on holding information for short periods of time. For example, if I am reading a book, I need to remember what happened in the chapters leading up to where I am now or I will have to go back and scan the pages to refresh my memory about the characters or other details of the story. A child who has trouble with working memory may have to re-read sections of a book over and over until it sinks in.  This will be especially problematic around the fourth or fifth grade when students are reading to learn.

Children with working memory difficulties also often struggle with other aspects of school as well like test taking and even paying attention in class. When a student takes a multiple choice test, he has to remember the question as he reads all the answer choices below it. Children who have trouble with working memory often re-read test questions and possible answers over and over, which slows down their ability to finish the test even though they might know all the answers. There is quite a bit of evidence that working memory and attention skills are related as well. When children with attention problems do working memory exercises daily for several weeks their attentional skills improve along with their working memory skills.

And by the way, each time you try to remember a shopping list yourself without resorting to writing it down, or try to remember new names at a party, you are exercising your own working memory. What builds your child's brain builds your brain too -- give it a try!

Parent Smart Step 7 - Use Memory Magic to build attention, memory and problem solving skills.

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