More Ways to Boost Your Child's Memory
Liven Things Up
A shortcut to helping toddlers remember just about anything more easily: Add a bit of fun. "Kids are quicker to recall activities they enjoy," explains Dr. Uhlenberg. Look for ways to turn an everyday routine into something entertaining. For example, doing a silly dance move every time you drop your child's clothes into the hamper will help him learn that's where dirty laundry goes -- and he'll want to join the action and boogie along with you.
Amping up the laugh factor can be especially helpful for friends or relatives who only visit every once in a while and are met with a shy kid who doesn't seem to know who they are. If your best childhood friend spends one-on-one time with your toddler, she'll make a bigger impression if she does what he enjoys most (like playing with the train set or having a tickle war). Once your friend has gone home, be sure to recap those fun times with your kid, which will help solidify memories of her.
Employ the Sound of Music
If you're embarrassed to admit you've got more toddler songs than Lady Gaga on your iPod, we have a good excuse for you: A child will remember information more easily when it's paired with a melody than when it's presented alone, according to a recent study from Carnegie Mellon University, in Pittsburgh. So rocking out to a song about brushing your teeth is more than just a fun way to bond -- it's a great technique for helping your child remember that she needs to do it twice a day for a healthy smile. Made-up tunes work well too; if you want to help her remember the names of her favorite foods or that Uncle Jeff and Aunt Ashley are coming to visit, try belting out an original melody about them.
To turn up the volume on the benefits of your musical repertoire, try slipping your kid's name into the song, suggests Dr. Uhlenberg. (During pickup time, you might sing, "Clean up, clean up, Jamie's picking up the blocks. Clean up, clean up, Jamie puts them in the box.") Not only will your child be tickled by the fact that you made the song all about her, it'll increase the odds that she'll pay attention to (and remember) the song's message.
Although a strong reprimand can certainly get your child's attention, positive feedback is particularly meaningful to toddlers and will help them remember how to do things. "Believe it or not, kids this age remember praise more than discipline," says Dr. DiBattisto. The key is to be specific ("Great job staying in the kitchen while you drank your juice!"), so that your child understands exactly which behavior you appreciate. Explains Dr. DiBattisto: "If you catch your kid being good and make a big deal about it, he'll want to remember what he was doing -- so he can repeat it."
Originally published in the October 2011 issue of Parents magazine.