10 Scientifically proven ways to improve your child's memory
Leading neurologist and long time educator, Judy Willis M.D., Me. D., shares the top 10 ways parents can improve their children's memory! Learn more here!
Judy Willis M.D., Me. D., a board certified neurologist in Santa Barbara, California, and tenured educator has had extensive exposure to neuroimaging, brain-mapping studies and research. Her hands on experience in the medical field, and in the classroom has made her one of the most credible sources on the subject of improving a child's memory.
In a post published by Psychology Today, Dr. Willis broke down 10 ways in which parents and educators can help to improve a child's memory. Her experience as a classroom teacher and neurologist allows her to make connections between the research and strategies that are "NEURO-LOGICAL."
Check out these expert approved ways to improve your child's memory:
"Stress causes the brain intake systems to send information into the Reactive brain (automatic-fight, flight, freeze) and prevents information flow through to the Reflective higher thinking, conscious brain (prefrontal cortex) where long-term memory is constructed," says Willis.
Her suggestion is to reduce stress and establish a fun, stimulating, and enjoyable activity before homework or study time. The idea is that the brain will make more positive associations with study/homework time, and since stress is removed from the equation, the experience will open up the brain networks that lead to memory storage. Stress can make it more difficult to retain information, but if you work to destress the learning process, kids' memory will improve.
2. Grab attention
"Memorable events make long-term memories," Willis claims. The trick here is to learn what your child finds most interesting in their studies and cater to their likes. "Curiosity opens up the brain's sensory intake filter so when the topic comes up in class or in reading it will grab her attention," Willis adds.
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Color can have a huge impact on how easily your kids learn, retain, or remember information. Willis explains, "The brain only lets in a small part of the billions of bits of sensory information available every second. A filter in the low (unconscious, automatic, animal-like) brain decides what gets in. Color is something that gets through this filter especially well."
So how can you take advantage of this technique? Have your children use colored pens color code notes or words to emphasize high importance, the expert suggests. This will help them easily recall information based on a visual cue.
A boring experience, no matter what the context or subject matter, is typically something that is easily forgotten. Willis claims that making something a bit more of a novelty experience will help kids to remember and take notice. "Use video clips from the internet, put on a funny hat, put a scarf on the dog, light a candle) right before your child begins to study. His alerting system will be more open to processing and remember information that comes in after a novel experience," she suggests.
5. Personal meaning
"Children must care enough about information or consider it personally important, for it to go through the brain filters and be stored as memory. Use your child's interests to connect her to the material," says Dr. Willis. Basically, if a child isn't interested in a subject, they'll be less likely to connect and learn. Willis suggests making a story as a cue or reference for your child. "Stories are great ways to remember new things because you child's brain grew up hearing stories and the pattern for remembering stories is strong in her brain," she claims.
6. Relational memories
According to Willis, "the brain keeps information in short-term memory for less than a minute unless it connects with prior knowledge."
In other words, if you want to raise your children's retention and overall memory, you'll need to relate new lessons to old ones. "Activate your child's prior knowledge by reminding him of things you've done as a family or that he's learned in other subjects that relates to the new information," the neurologist/teacher suggests.
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The human brain is naturally inclined to seek out, create, and recognize patterns. Use this to their advantage! "When your children recognize relationships between new and prior knowledge their brains can link the new information with a category of existing knowledge for long-term storage," Willis states. "Charts, mnemonics, listing similarities/differences, and making analogies build long-term memory patterns."
8. Mental manipulation for long-term memory
What this means is that your children need to utilize the new information they'e gaining. If they don't put it to use, it will be more difficult for them to store learned information in their long term memory.
"Your children can write summaries of new information in their own words," the doctor claims. "To make these even more personally meaningful the summaries can be in forms that suit their learning style preferences including sketches, skits, songs, dances, comic strips, or drawings."
9. Practice makes permanent
As with the last entry, it's important to understand that practicing and reviewing the learned skills or lessons will vastly improve stored memory.
"When a memory has been recalled often, this repeated neural circuit activation makes the memory stronger," says Dr. Willis. She claims that recalling a memory over and over again is "like exercising a muscle."
"Neurotransmitters, brain transport proteins, needed for memory construction and attention are depleted after as little as ten minutes of doing the same activity," Dr. Willis claims. Her personal remedy for this temporary drop in brain productivity is what she calls a "syn-nap".
"Syn-naps are brain-breaks where you help your child change the learning activity to let her brain chemicals replenish," she claims. After a much needed syn-nap, your child's mind will be replenished and sharp!
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