Childhood favorites like Memory, Simon Says, and Concentration can boost your child's brainpower. Road trips can be another opportunity to build recollection skills with the help of I Spy type games ("Can you spot the red car?"). Or you can simply get on the floor with your child and play with his toys. Show him the red ball and the blue ball. A few minutes later, take one of them away and see if he can tell you which one is gone.
Regular physical activity has been dubbed "Miracle Grow" for the brain, says Tricia Ferrara, a family therapist and creator of the Parenting in the 21st Century audio series. "Extensive research shows that as our bodies move, we produce a biochemical cocktail that primes the brain to learn and strengthens connections that enhance memory. Children should be given ample opportunity to run around, climb trees, and play physical games before, during, and after learning."
A child technically does not truly understand the concept of sharing until about the age of 5, says Sara Lise Raff, an educational consultant and mom of three. "However, a child can be taught to understand some basic rules, such as waiting your turn ('he goes, then you go'), if you walk away from a toy it is open for anyone to come and play with it, and if you bring your toy to a play date, then everyone there gets to play with it."
Research has shown discussing previous events will help improve your child's memory, according to DeAnn Davies of Phoenix Children's Hospital. "For example, after you are at the park ask questions like, 'Who was at the park?', 'What was her name?' Not only will these types of questions help with memory, but they also will help a child recognize the importance of noting details and remembering," Davies says. You also can query your little one after reading a story, asking "What happened first in the story?" and "What did the little pig say to the big bad wolf?"
Music is a powerful sticking agent, says Tricia Ferrara, a family therapist and creator of the Parenting in the 21st Century audio series. "Ever wonder why you can remember the lyrics of a television theme song from childhood and not one sentence of dialogue?," Ferrara says. "Music is a pre-language learning tool, and research shows that it can be a powerful memory booster." For older toddlers, parents can put directives to music, such as making up a little song on how to tie your shoes. For younger tots, you can simply make a game out of remembering lyrics. So the next time you're belting out your own rendition of Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star, be sure to leave out some of the words so that your child can fill them in for you.
Flipping through family photos is the perfect way to remember special moments while also jogging your child's memory. Have your child identify the people in the photos (be sure they're individuals your toddler has seen more than once, like Grandma and Grandpa). Then have your child tell a story to go along with the photo. Try prompting her for what she remembers about her last birthday party or how much fun she had during summer vacation.
Toddlers are trying their best to be more independent, and as a result they often want to be mommy and daddy's little helper. So the next time you have to run to the market, ask your child to remember a few of the items you need to buy. Not only will it be a good memorizing experience for your child, but it will also make him feel special -- and hopefully keep any whining about having to run errands with you to a minimum!
A recent study by Northwestern University found that adequate sleep plays a key role in memory retention. In fact, research shows that during sleep we efficiently store important items learned during the day and empty out the rest, so making sure that your child gets a good night's sleep (toddlers need between 11-13 hours per day, including naps) is essential to the health of both body and mind.
"My son has trouble remembering where he put his shoes, but he can recite, verbatim, the funny NFL Super Bowl commercials from 2007," says Tricia Ferrara, a family therapist and creator of the Parenting in the 21st Century audio series. It shouldn't come as a surprise that studies point to the fact that we have incredibly strong recall for things we find enjoyable, so find a way to add some humor to your lessons (a funny song to go with learning to use the potty or a colorful book to help with the ABCs).
Copyright © 2010 Meredith Corporation.