Begin exercising long-term memory in toddlers with these at-home exercises

There are simple, effective ways to help young children master the basics of memory.

As toddlers grow and parents are anxiously putting their arsenal of learning tools together to give their child an edge for a brighter future, at some point one wonders, “Is it too early?” “At what age does a child form long-term memory?” For the parents and caretakers who are interested in teaching their toddlers long-term skills such as colors and shapes, it is important to remember that every child learns at their own individual pace. According to Parents As Teachers, Inc. factual memory for facts and events begins to develop around two-and-a-half to three years of age. The child will remember things that capture their attention.

Parents can tell if their child is developing long-term memory if their child is recognizing the way to grandma’s house and can tell what streets and turns are taken to get there. There are other ways young children will demonstrate memory. The main thing parents will look for is recall – the hint that their child is demonstrating long-term memory use.

Before a child learns the names of colors and successfully names them, a child will begin to notice differences and similarities. A parent can practice with their toddler by guiding them through play. For example, picture an assortment of Easter eggs, a parent can guide the child saying, “Let’s get all the ‘red’ eggs.” It is important that parents are patient, learning takes place after repeated efforts. 

I like to compare a child’s learning to adults. Most adults also need to experience repetition to get it. In time, the child will successfully pick the “red” eggs. Not only have the parents helped the child recognize the difference between red and the other colored eggs, but the child has also been exposed to the sound of the word “red” due to the frequent repetition of the word. The child will soon-after vocalize “red” and eventually connect the red color to the word “red.” Parents are now ready to move on to a different color.

Another common game that helps develop memory and that parents can make at home are memory cards. Simply, purchase stickers and index cards. Start simple to see where the child is at. Use two different cards faced down, if the child is successful at it, then, increase the number of cards to three and then on to pairs. Again, the child needs to experience success, so, parents are encouraged not to make it too challenging, otherwise the child may get frustrated or discouraged and not want to continue. Busy parents will enjoy having taken part in their child’s little steps of learning.

Please visit the Michigan State University Extension website to find more articles on child development, parenting and academic success.

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