How to Improve Working Memory and Attention Skills in Kids

Despite the distractions of the modern world, it is possible to help boost your child’s memory and attention skills. We’re sharing how to help your child focus and improve his or her working memory.

How to help boost your child's working memory

Think back to your childhood… were you a whiz at the Memory Match game?  Could you recite family members’ birthdays or elaborately retell every detail of the book you’d just read?

It’s likely your child has a great memory, but modern kids most definitely have more demands on their attention than we did growing up.

With the mounting expectations in school, as well as our collective tendency toward distraction, it just makes sense to try to give your child a boost when it comes to memory and recall.

These tips and brain exercises can improve the working capacity of the brain, help with problem-solving capabilities, and may even prevent your child from developing certain types of mental illness and other memory disorders.

Cut Back on Screen Time

Television programs and commercials move at a much faster speed than real life. And do we even need to talk about how addictive and distracting our phones and tablets are? Set some boundaries around screen time. Not sure it’s possible? Here’s how to set effective screen limits.

No matter how much time per day you allow screen time, try to make sure your child’s morning and bedtime routine are tech-free. This allows you to start and end the day with fewer distractions. And be sure to fill in the screen-free time with lots of outdoor activities.

Play Games that Encourage Focus

Since you’ve put away the devices, now you can introduce some good old fashioned games that require concentration. Children learn through play, and these kind of games are great for building focus and boosting your child’s working memory

  • Thinking games: You can train and strengthen a child’s ability to concentrate and focus by playing concentration games that require thinking, planning and the use of memory. Crossword puzzles, jigsaw puzzles, and card games such as Memory and Uno actually improve attention for words, numbers and pictures, while picture puzzles—in which your younger child has to look for things that are wrong in the picture or look for hard-to-find objects—also improve attention and increase concentration.
  • Sequencing: The link between sequencing and concentration is a strong one. Following recipes, setting the table, and putting things in alphabetical order are great activities for kids who have concentration difficulties.
  • Just sit: This game involves challenging your child to sit in a chair without moving or fidgeting to see how long he can do it. Through repeated play, the child’s brain is challenged, which strengthens mind-body connections and improves focus.

See also: Want Happier, Calmer Kids? Simplify Their World.

Encourage Mindfulness

Kids are pretty good at living in the moment. So, this will likely be simple for them. When it comes to something they want or need to remember, help them learn how to pay close attention. Use simple mindfulness exercises to help them stay present.

If information isn’t given a “place” in the brain, it may only be stored for 18-30 seconds in the short term memory. For long-term memory, you can help your child train his brain to avoid information loss. This guided meditation script is all about helping your child retrieve information from his brain just like you’d check a book out of the library. Visualization strategies, taking notes, or connecting information to an event helps to retain the information.

Connect Emotions with Experiences

If your child is facing issues in remembering a lesson at school, ask her to visualize that information like a live event, happening in real time. When we’re able to draw a meaningful and emotional connection, the information will automatically connect to the memory wirings of the brain.

Provide Proper Brain Food

The brain consists 75% of water. Without proper hydration, the brain loses working memory power. Pure, filtered water is the best choice for staying hydrated and preventing dehydration and malfunctions. Keep sugar to a minimum, as high glucose levels can damage brain cells.

Eating fresh veggies, wild-caught fish, healthy fats like nuts, avocado, and coconut will all help support a healthy brain. Talk with your naturopath or pediatrician about kid-friendly supplements containing Omega 3s, Vitamin B12, or Folic Acid.

Organize Information into Chunks

According to Lifehacker, “Most of us are able to store only about four to seven different items in our short-term memory. One way to get past this limit is to use a technique called chunking. By grouping several items into one larger whole, you’ll be able to remember much more.”

If your child is trying to memorize dates, create a timeline on legal size paper so the brain can “see” it. If you’re helping her follow step-by-step directions, take each step at a time. Or try a graphic organizer to help break writing assignments into smaller pieces.

Set a Good Example

Improving long-term memory storage requires learning, repeating, archiving, and retrieving. Teaching others is a common practice in Montessori style education. Students who help others in solving complex assignments and in the preparation of lesson can actually create more storage capacity in their brains.

If you’ve worried about your child’s memory or attention span, ease into a few of these suggestions and see how they go. As your child adapts, introduce more or have him suggest fun ways to get deeper into a game, book, or activity. Once they take ownership,  they’ll really start to excel.

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