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7 Ways to improve your child's memory

Caroline Duda has years of experience as an SAT tutor for Varsity Tutors. She earned an MFA in Creative Writing from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Memory, or the ability to accurately summon information from the recesses of the mind, is a critical skill at all levels of schooling and in all subjects. It is crucial to life outside the classroom, as well.

Exams are nearly impossible to complete without it, and it is difficult to play soccer without remembering how to kick the ball. Given memory's importance, how can you help your child hone her capabilities in this area? Memory must be continually exercised from infancy on, but this can luckily be accomplished with minimal materials and simple strategies. Here are seven tips to consider implementing with your daughter or son.

1. Create or purchase recall games

Challenge your student to retrieve information from his or her past through recall. Matching games like Simon are an entertaining option to strengthen your child's memory, but simple questions like, "What street do we live on?" or "What was your class schedule last year?" can also be effective (as well as free).

2. Develop mnemonics or rhymes to retain information

If your student struggles to remember historically significant dates, math equations or your office telephone number, encourage her to think of a short phrase that attaches the information to an item she can easily remember. For example, "The 76-ers saw the Declaration of Independence, which was signed in 1776."

3. Link content and motion

Children learn in a variety of ways, through sight, sound, physical movement, etc. Consider pairing a lecture or reading with a hands-on activity, as this may clarify and cement the concept in new ways. If, for instance, your student is mastering division, supply him or her with objects to sort into groups.

4. Separate information into digestible packets

The human mind can only remember a finite number of items in a single sitting. Exercise moderation. If your child must memorize a list of 100 science terms, instruct her to address five per day. As she commits the unfamiliar words to memory, she can review vocabulary she understands to solidify it.

5. Ensure academic study is compelling

Not all topics will appeal to your student, but interesting him or her in a subject will minimize the threat of selective memory (after all, it is far easier to recall information that interests us). Whenever possible, prompt him or her to connect class content to his or her personal experience.

6. Incorporate color

Color-coding notes, similar concepts, terms and so on allows your brain to recognize and form patterns. Our minds rely on patterns to categorize and link information, and color also serves as a visual cue. Highlighters or tabs in multiple shades can thus jump-start your child's brain inexpensively and quickly, and they can be fun.

7. Practice key routines and skills

Practice makes perfect, truly. The above strategies are of little use to your student if he or she does not practice them. When we utilize a specific skill or technique, we encourage the growth of those neurons that control it. Practice items frequently to ensure your child successfully retains them.

For more tips and strategies to help your student succeed in school, visit www.varsitytutors.com.

Photo credit: Maskot/Maskot/Getty Images
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