memory skills

Parent Wishes #15: Supporting Cognitive or Thinking Skills for Young Children

When asking parents if they had one wish for kids at school or daycare, one mom wished for more ways of supporting cognitive or thinking skills. Parents want what’s best for their children, phsically and mentally. An earlier post talked about some ideas to promote physical development. This post looks at how to encourage mental skills.supporting cognitive development

Learning and thinking involve input and output. Young children take in much of their information thru their senses. Babies put everything in their mouth so they can learn about it. They are collecting sensory data. Once brains have information, kids need to process it. This is called cognition or thinking.

We can support development of thinking skills by giving kids lots of sensory experiences. We say that ears hear, eyes see, noses smell, tongues taste, and skin touches. More accurately, ears collect the information and the brain process it. Noses might detect a smell in the kitchen, but it’s the brain that says, “Oh, I smell cookies.” As part of the thinking process, the brain also remembers cookies taste wonderful.

science fun cookies

Collecting, processing, and remembering are all part of the thinking package. Language is part of the package too. Brains need not just hundreds and hundreds of words, but millions and millions. A low input of words is about 3 million a year and a high input of words is over 10 million! This means as parents and caregivers we need to talk, sing, and share books and stories. And other family members and friends too.

We can help develop memory by talking with kids about something that has happened. What do they remember seeing and hearing?  When we create  memories, the brain forms new connections and builds on old ones. When kids are able, they might like to draw pictures of special things that happened. Photos can trigger memories.

Being able to pay attention and ignore distractions is part of processing information. As kids play, they are stretching their attention skills. Imagination is another aspect of thinking. Reading books, making up stories, and play are ways to strengthen imagination.thinking cognitive skills play

Play is the brain’s favorite way to learn. It’s both input and output. Supporting cognitive or thinking skills means ensuring kids have time and space to play. Can these ideas inspire some play today for your child?


Halloween Memory Game – Fun for Kids and Adults

A Halloween memory game is fun to play, easy to make, and simple to do. Kids and adults can play together and check their memories.halloween-memory-game

To make the game find about 6 to 10 small Halloween items. Usually, we all have a few things and find more once we’ve started. To make ours we used a skeleton, spider, centipede, bat, pencil, plastic finger, troll with orange hair, pumpkin cookie cutter, orange button, and a candy. I placed these on a tray and we looked at them for a minute. The kids touched them and moved them around. After the timer set for one minute beeped, the items were covered with a dish towel. I asked Little Sister how many of the things she could name. She got five items but she thought for quite a while. Big Sister, who goes to school, named eight. Even though I had rounded up the items, once they were covered I had to really think to get them all.

The kids liked this game and tried it a couple more times. Each time, they remembered some of the same items and some different ones.


We also played another Halloween memory game with them: What’s missing? This time, when the items were covered up I put my hand under the cloth and took one away. One of the kids got to take off the cloth and the other one tried to figure out what wasn’t there. Using 10 items was pretty hard for Little Sister.  She was able to figure out what was missing when it was the candy. Having one take away the cloth and the other guess kept Big Sister from blurting out the answer. If somebody did say when it wasn’t their turn, that person wasn’t able to take away the cover the next time. This was no great privilege but it worked and was a simple rule.

New research into kids and memory finds that memory” resists being rushed, and all the so-called memory games and drills don’t do a thing for kids….” (Parenting: Developing Your Child’s Memory)The game may not have stretched memory but it did serve a purpose. Playing together was a way of interacting. The kids practiced taking turns, giving others a chance to answer, and being patient while waiting. They got to talk about what they remembered and what they forgot. They shared some strategies. For instance, Big Sister said she was the pencil was missing because she wanted to write with it but it wasn’t sharpened.halloween-memory-game

The game may not have helped with remembering the items, but it did help us create the memory of playing together. That’s a good reason to play this Halloween memory game, isn’t it?

Star Wars Memory Game

Star Wars memory game to the rescue. Instead of some weekend time for outside fun, we needed a quiet game that could be played from the sofa. Our plans had to be revised for sick kids. Big Sister is curled up under a blanket, bucket close by just in case, and Little Sister is sipping honey and ginger because her “throat keeps getting blocked.”

While the chance to catch up on the laundry and tidy the kitchen is welcome, with the kids quietly watching TV, it will absolutely not be on all day. Sitting down to read stories will happen a few times along with some other quiet activities for distraction.

star wars memory gameTo make and play this Star Wars memory game, it would be ideal to have a few Star Wars plastic characters. We made do with some stars and Little Sister chose 7 items to put on a tray. Ours were: a glow-in-the-dark star, a pipe cleaner star, a tiny light saber or key chain flashlight, a fake candle or tea light, a toy comb with a star on it, a tiny car with blue flames, and a Jenga block. That was Big Sister’s choice because Jenga sounds sort of like Jedi.

The kids each took a turn looking at the items on the tray. I draped a cloth over them and they tried to remember the items. Big Sister remembered 5 and Little Sister got 3. I was relieved when I did name all 7.

A different way to play is to take one item away under cover of the towel or cloth. Take the towel away and the other person gets to say what’s missing. Little Sister was able to figure out what was removed about half the time, Big Sister wasn’t ever stumped, but she is almost 3 years older.

Another variation is to add an item, again using the towel to hide the action. This was easy because the new item was quite obvious.

This Star Wars memory game was fun and provided a break when needed. It can be done with any items that are handy at your house. Is your memory as good as kids’?

Readiness for Kindergarten – Memory And Santa List

Making a list is a strategy that many of us use to help with remembering–just ask Santa. While there are other common memory tricks , since it’s almost December, a list seems like an obvious choice. While preschool kids are not burdened with lists like grown-ups, it is important for kids to see how adults … Continue reading Readiness for Kindergarten – Memory And Santa List

Memory and Baby Signs

Both children and adults have different strengths when it comes to learning. Some learn better through pictures, some with words and others with hands-on actions. While we really use all of these different styles, we usually have personal preferences. Memory can be similar. I find remembering conversations very much easier than trying to recall visual information. … Continue reading Memory and Baby Signs

Readiness for Kindergarten – Memory and Instruction Fun

Ever noticed how when parents ask kids to do something the kids have “selective listening”? (I think it should be called “selective ignoring’) While that may be the issue, we may be sabotaging the situation ourselves by giving kids more things to remember than their memories can hold. For example, when we say “Okay, you … Continue reading Readiness for Kindergarten – Memory and Instruction Fun

Readiness for Kindergarten – Physical Activity and Memory

Physical activity has a beneficial effect on health, and recent studies show that it even helps memory function. Because memory is such a key strategy in learning, it’s important then that kids get lots of physical activity. While it seems that kids never stop moving, as parents and caregivers we need to make sure that they … Continue reading Readiness for Kindergarten – Physical Activity and Memory

Readiness for Kindergarten – Picture Memory, 1 2 3 Smile!

Did you take some Thanksgiving photos yesterday? Photos can help kids–and grownups-with memory skills and readiness for kindergarten. Our brains use pictures as well as words to create memory connections. Try this yourself first to check out your memory. Look at a picture you took recently, perhaps yesterday for Thanksgiving. Now, turn it over and … Continue reading Readiness for Kindergarten – Picture Memory, 1 2 3 Smile!

Readiness for Kindergarten – Happy Thanksgiving

Emotions have a powerful influence on memory. That may be why our brains have such strong memories about holidays because they are emotional events, both positive and not so positive. Did you know that your holiday celebrations can help little ones with readiness for kindergarten ? At this age, the roots for healthy emotional growth have already … Continue reading Readiness for Kindergarten – Happy Thanksgiving

Readiness for Kindergarten – Thanksgiving Turkey Craft

Did you know that when we form a memory our brains creates either new connections or strengthens old ones? Since creating connections helps with memory, here’s a project to do with your child to make a few and promote readiness for kindergarten. Turkeys are connected to Thanksgiving. Using paper in yellow or brown, have your child trace … Continue reading Readiness for Kindergarten – Thanksgiving Turkey Craft