ABCs.jpgWhere I come from, people always say that “fish is brain food!” Well, I don’t know how scientific that notion is, but what I do know is that people everywhere have long been concerned with matters of the brain. Things like intelligence, wisdom, knowledge, & memory have consistently been among the most valued intangibles of human life! If people were wrong about this, then most likely we’d all still be living in the dark ages.

So, if you wish to help your child to develop a stronger memory & better skills for undertaking memory based tasks, read on for a few key definitions & (I hope) some helpful product suggestions that will serve our children well as they navigate their way through the wonderful world of memory. 

[NOTE: Recently I’ve been publishing articles as part of a series on educational toys to help your child in the early stages of his or her career as a student. Respectively, these articles were entitled: 

                       Educational Toys to Prepare Your Toddler for Preschool & 

                       Educational Toys to Prepare Your Child for Primary & The Early Grades.

If you missed either of these articles, be sure to go back and take a look once you’ve finished up here.]

                           Kids Learning.jpg

TWO MAIN TYPES (OR CATEGORIES) OF MEMORY

Ok, above I promised you some key definitions related to memory. To better understand how our memory works, it’s important to know that there are 2 kinds of memory: short term memory and long term memory. Here’s how these 2 types of memory operate:

Short Term Memory – Short term memory, also known as working memory, essentially consists of that which is currently in active use in one’s mind right now, at any given moment. The information held in our short term memory may or may not be ultimately committed to our long term memory. It is very similar to the RAM (Random Access Memory) in your computer. When you have an open window, such as a text document, in use on your computer, the material is not yet saved until you take action to save it. Right up until the moment you do save the data, it may be lost at any time. It’s much like when someone gives you an important piece of information that you only need to know momentarily, like the phone number of someone you must call right away. If you have no pen and paper handy, you may repeat the number over 2 or 3 times until you are able to grab a phone and start dialing. Once dialed, the number is no longer needed and may be dismissed from your short term memory without ever being committed to long term memory. If the number is very important and you expect to need it again in the future, you may choose to either physically record the number in your Rolodex or commit it to long term memory with a bit of concentration (usually in the form of further repetition until the information is locked in). 

Long Term Memory – Much like the hard disk drive (or any other permanent storage medium) of your computer, long term memory stores information on a more permanent basis. Information such as how to spell words you frequently write or your best friend’s telephone number are examples of data stored in your long term memory. Committing information that is currently in use in your short term memory to your long term memory may be accomplished by a minimum of 30 seconds of repetition or concentration on the pertinent data (this minimum time frame is a generalization and will vary by individual). Once information is committed to your long term memory, it is available for recall at any time in the future. Of course, neither short term nor long term memory are perfect, and people do forget (or sometimes have difficulty recalling) information at times. Just because you’ve committed something to long term memory, that doesn’t mean that recall will always be instant. However, the better job you’ve done of committing the information to your long term memory, the easier it will generally be to recall the information when it’s needed.

So, why is this stuff important? Well, the key piece of information to take away here is the idea of repetition of data that we wish to commit to our long term memories. The is why the items I discuss below are useful—they encourage repetition of vital information that leads to this knowledge being committed to long your child’s term memory.

TOYS THAT PROMOTE THE GROWTH OF MEMORY

One type of memory development game I have always personally liked is the matching game. This is basically any game where the players have to select 2 cards that may or may not have matching images on them, flip the cards over briefly, and remember where specific images are for later match making (if no initial match was made simply by luck). Usually 2 or more players play this game against each other. The player having made the most matches when all of the cards are gone is the winner. This is an excellent memory game for people of all ages who wish to develop their memorization skills, but it is especially great for small children just learning what memorization is all about! One fine example of a memory matching game is the Melissa & Doug Flip-To-Win Memory Game. This is pretty much the classic game that we all remember. It comes with 14 different themed matching challenges (printed on 2 sides of 7 individual cards). You basically choose your theme, slide the card into the wooden frame, and make your selections by opening the little door-like flaps that reveal whatever is behind each one. There’s even a neat little sliding scoreboard system that works for 2 player games. This product is meant for children ages 5 and up.

Another great type of memory development game is the entire category of simple puzzles. Simple puzzles can be assembled and disassembled over and over again numerous times, and it is this repetition that leads to memorization. As your child assembles themed puzzles (such as an alphabet or number puzzle), he or she will learn both the shape of the letters or numbers & their order. Take, for example, the Melissa & Doug See-Inside Alphabet Peg Puzzle – With 26 Pieces. Once your child discovers how to put this puzzle together once, it will become easier and easier to solve each additional time. This is memorization in action! In a few days’ time, your child will not only learn to recognize the shapes of the letters, but they will also learn their order and will be able to do the puzzle forwards and backwards. With a little help from you, they can begin to learn the different names of the letters and ultimately they will learn the full and correct alphabet. There are number versions of these games as well, and I personally believe that they are invaluable for the early development of your child’s memorization skills. And remember, the alphabet is a tool that your child will use every day for the rest of his or her life. In my line of work, there’s nothing more important the the 26 letters you see on that colourful board to the left

Finally, I keep pointing to the LeapFrog LeapPad tablets over and over again because I’ve tested every generation of these things and I have tremendous faith in their ability to help your child to learn. And it’s not just memory that these tablets will help your child with either. LeapFrog tablets will help your child with every aspect of their early education. However, since I’m talking about memory today, let me just assure you that there are numerous games within the LeapFrog library that do feature repetitive tasks that help to build knowledge and reinforce memorization of key knowledge & information. With over 1000 games, videos, and websites in the LeapFrog learning library to choose from, there’s no shortage of ways for your child to learn! With that said, the model I’ll suggest today is the LeapFrog LeapPad3 Learning Tablet. This one is an excellent first tablet for your child. With several LeapPad options available to choose from, what I like about the LeapPad 3 is its price. It is generally less expensive than the newer LeapPad Platinum (which I recently reviewed HERE), yet it does most of the same things that the Platinum model can do.

With school getting ready to start just about any minute now, I hope I have given you some useful thoughts to consider and a few fun and interesting ways to give your child an advantage going forward with their education. Remember, repetition is the key to committing information to long term memory. However, if your child should happen to struggle with learning from time to time, try not to force the issue too much by making them sit down and study at the expense of their playing time. After all, study that’s disguised as play will help them to learn their lessons even if they have no desire or intention of conforming to a more structured study program. Good luck!