While working memory doesn’t determine how intelligent or capable a person is, being able to keep several things in mind at once can definitely help kids stay focused, follow directions, and exceed in many other areas of their life. Mastering working memory can be difficult but there are a number of ways you can help your child improve.
1. Give short, clear instructions in chunks.
This might sound obvious, but most people go about giving directions in a meandering way. Good instructions use short, active sentences. You might even have to break instructions up into more manageable chunks. If you were to cook a big meal, you wouldn’t want to see a recipe as a chunk of text. Recipes are broken down into numbered steps to make them more manageable. To help kids keep ideas in their working memory, instructions need to be the same.
2. Check understanding.
Whatever you’re doing with your child, whether you’re giving your child instructions, telling them a story, or having them read out loud, make sure you check their understanding. Although it might seem obvious or simple to you, ask your child simple questions to make sure they are following each step and really know what to do, then delve into the more complex. Better yet, have your child teach you or someone else afterward!
3. Remember, we learn in different ways.
Everyone learns a bit differently. Although you might want to run out and buy one of the top memory pills on the market when you see your child struggling, it might just be a matter of how you or their teacher give instructions. While some kids might do fine with verbal instructions, others will do better when they are written, or physically demonstrated. Create games and projects for your kids that involve listening, speaking, writing, reading, and moving or some of both to boost working memory.
4. Teach working memory strategies to make remembering many things more manageable.
According to the APA, most people can only remember 7 items at a time or four chunks of information. Teach your child to group numbers so instead of seeing 1, 8, 5, and 0 separately, they think of it as 1,850. You can also help them group words into categories to help them remember, teach them how to make songs out of vocabulary, or other mnemonic devices.
5. Play memory games.
The latest lifestyle news shows memory games can help improve working memory. To really target working memory, you can always play memory games online, download an app, or buy a program or book and work on it together. If you rely on memory games to boost working memory, make sure your child is using them consistently to reap the benefits.
6. Play games in general.
While memory games might target working memory, teaching your child more traditional board or card games will help, too. Most have a lot of rules and steps, so in the process of playing, they’ll have to keep all the new information straight to win!
7. Stay active.
Some research shows simply being physically active can protect and improve memory. It burns a lot of energy, helps us focus, and reduces anxiety while boosting endorphins which all leads to better concentration and may make your child more likely to keep new information in mind.
For most children, improving working memory is simply a matter of development and learning good memory strategies. However, if you think your child is having more trouble than others concentrating or remembering simple tasks, speak to your doctor about whether memory supplements like CogniQ could help.
Evlin Symon is a freelance health writer from New Jersey. She enjoys learning about a wide variety of wellness issues and staying up-to-date on the latest research. She also is the author of many active blogs.