If you find that instructions quickly fly out of your child’s mind, or if you are tired of continually nagging them to remember to do things, you are not alone. Many children find it hard to pay attention and keep track of to-dos responsibly – some adults have this problem themselves, so don’t berate your kid too harshly over it! As a parent, you can do wonders by giving them some guidance along the way. Here are some tips that might help you improve your kid’s Dory fish-like working memory.
Write to-do lists
Between school, friends, tuition, CCAs and home, it is unrealistic to expect your children to commit everything to memory. Get a whiteboard or calendar and write a checklist of what they have to do every day, and put the board in a place that’s easily spotted (like the dining room wall or bedroom door).
At the start, watch them as they go through the checklist, making sure they pack all the things in their backpack, and complete each assignment, checking the list off as they do. Make it a routine to do everything the night before to avoid a mad morning rush.
Let your child teach you
A key to being a good student is to be a good teacher. Kids with weak working memory can remember better if you make learning more interactive. Being able to explain how to do something involves making sense of information and mentally absorbing it. It allows them to internalise information and actively work on it, rather than just passive learning.
Connect personal meaning
A piece of information needs to be significant enough to go through the brain filters and be stored as memory. Help your child form associations that connect the different details they are trying to remember. Make stories together or relate it to an experience using the information. Finding ways to connect information helps with forming and retrieving long-term memory. It also helps with working memory, which is used to hold and compare new and old memories.
Work on visualisation skills
Spur your child to create a mental picture of what they have just learnt. For example, if you are learning addition and subtraction, you can use apples and oranges to illustrate the math problem. You could also have your child draw pictures of the apples and oranges. Get creative with your analogy to help spark better visualisation skills and create cues for remembering in future.
Novelty makes an experience more memorable – your child is more likely to remember his first time at Disneyland than a regular study day in school. You can introduce some novelty to a study session and make it more memorable by using video clips from the Internet, studying about history in dress-up, singing a song to the dog before revision and more. Their alerting system will be more open to processing and remembering information that comes in during and after a novel experience. Don’t be afraid to let YOUR creative juices flow as well!