What Parents Can Do To Shape Their Kids' Early Memories

What Parents Can Do To Shape Their Kids’ Early Memories

Over the past 18 months, many parents have asked themselves: How much of the pandemic will my children remember? And how might those lasting memories — as well as all the others they carry from their childhood — shape who they become?

I’ve personally wondered about that with my own children, especially my toddler, who has now lived more than half his life during an unprecedented global health crisis. I like to think he’s generally a happy kid who’s had a happy life so far, but how do I know if he’ll be carrying around some not-so-lovely COVID-19 memories for years to come?

While memory is complex and many of those questions can’t really be answered, what is clear to experts is that kids’ memories are stronger and better than they once thought. The long-term memories they form may not be totally reliable, but they can still recollect a remarkable amount from their early years.

Here’s why that matters, and what parents can do about it:

The idea that kids can’t remember anything before age 3 is wrong

Sometimes when I’m annoyed with my toddler’s antics and I’m not necessarily being the nicest, most patient mom, I comfort myself with the idea that he probably won’t remember any of this.

Not so, according to Carole Peterson, a professor who studies language and memories at the Memorial University of Newfoundland in Canada.

“Children often remember farther into the past than we once believed they could,” she told HuffPost.

Several of Peterson’s studies focus on a phenomenon known as “childhood amnesia,” or the idea that kids (and adults!) remember very little about life before age 3 or 4. For decades, experts thought that childhood amnesia was due to the fact that kids’ brains simply could not form memories before a certain point.

But Peterson and other researchers have found that that’s not necessarily true. One of Peterson’s studies, for example, showed that children who have medical emergencies when they’re just 2 years old — and who are interviewed years later — can absolutely remember central components of their experiences. They may not remember them as clearly as children who were older at the time of their health events, but the memories were still there. Other studies suggest that children remember things that happened to them when they were around 3 very well at age 5, 6 and 7, but they start to lose those memories around age 8 or 9.

All of this is to say there isn’t a clear consensus about when young kids form lasting memories, and it depends on the child. Kids also tend to not be very good at accurately dating their memories, Peterson said, which complicates our understanding of all of this. A 4-year-old, for example, might recall an event from when they were 2 but think it was relatively recent.

The bottom line for parents, Peterson said, is that children may indeed remember things earlier than we think they do.

Emotional events tend to stick with children the most

“Anything that is emotionally salient, kids will remember more often,” Jenny Yip, a Los Angeles-based clinical psychologist, previously told HuffPost. That’s true for both younger kiddos and older children.

In our present moment, that means kids who’ve had a particularly hard stretch during the pandemic might hold on to those memories more than others.

Ways to Help Sharpen Your Child’s Mind

Learning is easier if you have a better memory. Not only is memory essential to a child’s development, but it’s also a huge factor in terms of future academic success. Children with better memory are able to learn and perform better in the classroom, and generally have a less challenging time in terms of academics.

There are several things that you can do to strengthen your memory. Here are some things you can do to help sharpen your child’s mind.

Encourage Reading

Knowledge is wealth. It’s no surprise that encouraging reading will help sharpen your child’s mind by aiding their mental development. Make your child participate in active reading strategies so that they can easily form long-term memories. These strategies include taking notes, highlighting, reading out loud, and asking and answering questions.

Provide your children with an array of materials to read. Cookbooks, magazines, newspapers, travel itinerates—anything and everything is encouraged. Interact with them about the content that they’ve just read, encourage them to explore their curiosity, and ask questions.

Use All Senses

Taking a multi-sensory approach will go a long way in helping your child with their memory. Try to get them to make use of all their senses while learning. Using a multi-sensory approach has been shown to help children learn better and achieve better memory retention. Sight, touch, and sound can be engaged by having conversations, reading aloud, and using props. For example, if you’re teaching your child about oranges, bring an orange out. Ask them to examine it by touching it, smelling it, tasting it, and counting the seeds inside it. This way, your child is better able to engage with the material at hand, making it easier to remember.

Try Game-Based Learning

Game-based learning is quite simple—it’s learning through games such as interactive play, video games, and more. Games such as chess have been used for centuries to help boost memory power, and recent research has shown that game-based learning has positive effects on problem-solving skills. The concept behind this type of learning is that your child learns through repetition and failure, teaching them to accomplish their goals through creative thinking.

Game-based learning helps in expanding your child’s mind by teaching them to think creatively, thereby sharpening their minds. It encourages a sense of competition, encouraging confidence and self-efficacy. Game-based activities also create feedback, so that children are able to identify and effectively resolve their problems, sharpening their minds.

Improve your child’s memory and help them build confidence with curaFUN’s immersive game-based learning programs. Our games are known to develop problem-solving skills and as well as better social skills through interaction. These games can also help your child gain fluency in both English and Mandarin while aiding the development of emotional and social skills in children through positive reinforcement. Our programs not only boost confidence and social development but also problem-solving skills and can help manage behavioral problems for children with ADHD.

Contact us for more info.