Improve Your Child’s Working Memory With Games
In a recent post, we talked about ways to promote self-regulation skills in children. One of the important components of self-regulation is working memory. A child’s working memory allows them to maintain their train of thought. It’s an important predictor of future success in mathematics, reading, and writing.
As you might expect, humans develop their working memory over time. This is why children are so easily distracted and it seems they cannot remember even simple instructions! As children get older, they develop stronger working memory, allowing them to execute multistep directions, complete math problems in their heads, and remember more details from pictures and videos.
There are plenty of ways to help your child grow their working memory. Incorporating games that allow for memory practice is something many families can do. Beyond improving working memory, many of the games below promote counting, color recognition, letter recognition, and more foundational skills. Try some of these games and activities to help children improve their working memory:
Games like Go Fish, Old Maid, and even Uno! are a fun way to improve your chid’s memory. Go Fish requires each player to recall what they’ve asked for in previous turns and remember which players told them to “go fish.” In Old Maid, players make matches while trying to avoid being stuck with the “old maid” card. Players have to remember who has the Old Maid so they can avoid getting it themselves! Uno! has constant changes, especially with “reverse” and “skip” cards that keep players on their toes. The savviest players notice when another player has only one card left, catching them if they forget to call “uno.”
This is a fast-paced symbol recognition game. It comes in a “junior” version that’s perfect for young kids. Each player is given a circular card with pictures of animals in different sizes. Then, the remaining cards are placed face-up in a pile in the center of the players. Players then try to match one animal on their card with an animal on the revealed card. Each card will always have a match with any other card. The trick is finding the match the fastest!
Also known as “memory match,” these are classic games for kids as young as two. Start with fewer pairs of matches for younger kids. You can increase the number of pairs to make the game more difficult.
Shuffle the pairs and place them in a grid pattern on a flat surface. Take turns turning over two cards, looking for matches. This is a great game for memory because it forces the child to remember pictures they saw in previous turns.
This is a classic preschool game! Start with a group of 4-5 household objects. Arrange them on a baking sheet. Use a bandana or another piece of cloth large enough to cover the objects. Place the covered tray in front of the child. Give them 30 seconds to look at the objects. Then, cover the tray and remove it, turning your back so only you can see the tray.
Remove one object from the tray. Then, replace the tray in front of the child. Uncover it, and see if they can identify which object is missing! This is a fun game for many age groups. Increase the number of objects to make it more difficult.
The Magic Cup Game
Remember watching the cap dance on the big screen at a baseball game? This is a home version of that challenge. All you need are three opaque cups and a small ball that fits underneath them. Try a pom-pom–it won’t make noise while you’re mixing up the cups.
For beginners, you can use cups in different colors to help children follow them with their eyes. To make it more challenging, use three cups of the same color.
Arrange the cups in a line on a flat surface. Place the ball under one of the cups. Then, slowly move the cups into different spots, mixing up the order. The speed and amount of time you use can increase based on the child’s age and ability. Start slowly and only mix the cups up a few times. When you’re done, ask the child to tap the top of the cup that has the ball inside. Did they get it right?