Training Memory in Preschool Children

Psychologists have tested memory performance in people all over the world and found that those who have completed at least a few years of formal education score higher than those from the same culture and economic status who did not attend school; and the more years completed, the better the performance. Where formal schooling especially helps is in learning memory strategies, deliberate tricks like verbal rehearsal, information clustering, and note-taking that children use to make it through years of quizzes and final exams.

But what about the years before formal schooling begins, when the basic neural circuitry underlying conscious memory storage is still being laid down? Is there a critical period for memory development during these earlier years? We know that children begin using their memory in a deliberate fashion as early as three years of age. In one study, three-year-olds (but not two-year-olds) proved better at retrieving a hidden toy dog if the experimenter explicitly asked them, at the time of hiding, to "remember where the dog is" than i he simply instructed them to "wait here with the dog" while the experimenter briefly left the room. By three years, kids already figure out tricks like keeping their hand on the hiding place or forcing themselves to stare at it throughout the forty-second waiting period, to help prod their memories.

That children are aware of their memories at such an early age suggests that it may be possible to improve such strategies, if not memory itself, well before they enter elementary school. Indeed, there's good evidence from laboratory studies that children as young as four can learn strategies like sorting and naming that improve their ability to recall words or objects. Even more intriguing is the role parents can play. It is known, for instance, that three-year-olds whose mothers place greater demands on their memories—who more frequently question them about past events or probe their growing body of general knowledge—perform better on tests of recall than children whose mothers place fewer such demands on them. By focusing children on the important facts—the who, what, when, where, how, and why issues—parents can teach their children the requisite narrative skills—how to think about events in terms of time and causality—which is ultimately how we recall facts and events later on. Perhaps this is why young children love to be told stories; it's as if they instinctively crave examples by which to hone their own narrative skills.

Thus it does appear that memory development can be influenced by practice. The more a child is challenged to use her memory, even early on, the better it is likely to serve her later in life. The fact that memory skills can be molded by experience—even at an age when the basic neural pathways for information storage are still being laid down—suggests that the early years may indeed constitute a critical period for establishing a lifelong arsenal of memory skills.


Schooling appears to be the most influential factor in training memory in children, but parents can do more by coaching children to remember things and build narratives as a tool for memory.

Folksonomies: parenting memory child development

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 What's Going on in There? : How the Brain and Mind Develop in the First Five Years of Life
Books, Brochures, and Chapters>Book:  Eliot , Lise (2000-10-03), What's Going on in There? : How the Brain and Mind Develop in the First Five Years of Life, Bantam, Retrieved on 2011-07-18
Folksonomies: parenting babies development infants physiology


14 JUN 2011

 Raising Well-Adjusted Children

Memes on parenting and activities to encourage intelligence and good behavior in children.
Folksonomies: parenting child rearing
Folksonomies: parenting child rearing