Have you ever asked your child to do something and two minutes later they come around to ask you what you had asked them to do? Does your child’s teacher complain that he/she is unable to follow directions? Does your child work hard at learning spellings but then forgets it quickly?
All the situations mentioned above occur when your child’s working memory is not at its best.
What is working memory? Working memory is the short-term memory bank that stores information till we need it. Your child depends on his/her working memory through most of his/her school day. He/she has to remember instructions his/her teacher gives to the class, learn spellings, names, math concepts, remember the rules of games in the playground, etc.
How can it be improved? Here are 5 ways to improve your child’s working memory:
- Eat Well. Like your child’s muscles, the brain needs food and water too. Make sure your child drinks plenty of water and eats a healthy, balanced diet. Vitamins like Vitamin B-12, folic acid, etc are all important for good work memory.
- Visualise it. Your child is more likely to remember something when he/she can visualise it. For example, if you want to teach your child the spelling of the word ‘smile’, then write the word ‘smile’ in the shape of a smile. If you want your child to get you the scissors from the kitchen drawer, draw him/her a map. Slowly get your child in the habit of drawing a mental map when you give him/her directions of where to find it.
- Teach me. Tell your child, “Teach me how to do it” every time he/she learns to do something new. Did your child learn how to add today? Have your child teach you how to add at home. When your child is forced to teach you something new, your child will have to relearn it, process it afresh and only then present it to you. In the process, your child reinforces the memory.
- Feel it. Your child is more likely to remember something if there is an emotion linked to it. If your child is learning to spell angry, have your child spell it while expressing the emotion of anger. If your child has to learn a poem about Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer, have your child feel Rudolf’s sadness when he is excluded from the other reindeer, and his happiness when Santa wants him to lead the sleigh.
- List it. Make a list of instructions for your child. “I want you to do three things – clear your bed, put the toys in the box and switch off your bedroom light.” Then have your child repeat the list to you.
It is important for you to remember that your child does not want to or choose to forget things. They do not do it out of disrespect. Children who have poor working memory have a tough time playing with peers because they forget the rules of games they play together. Their teachers often get frustrated with them for not following instructions or not learning as fast as their peers. These children need help and guidance to improve. With sustained effort, their memory will improve and they soon begin to find their own tricks to help them remember.