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Use these strategies to build your child’s working memory

Throughout the course of any given day, children are asked to do many different things, from getting ready and engaging in the classroom to doing chores and completing homework. In school, your child’s job is to learn, but learning is quite complex. It requires paying attention, comprehension, active listening, reasoning, critical thinking, making comparisons and organizing thoughts — for multiple subjects. 

When all these activities come easy for children, school usually comes easy, too. But if you notice that your child struggles in school and has difficulty remembering important information and focusing on homework, you might wonder what’s going on. There could be several causes, but it is possible that your child has a weak working memory. 

Working memory is defined as “memory that involves storing, focusing attention on and manipulating information for a short period of time.” Years ago, researchers first defined working memory as memory used to plan and carry out behavior. 

Put simply, working memory is what helps children remember homework directions long enough to complete the work. It allows them to problem solve when they encounter tricky math homework or a word they do not understand while reading. It helps children recognize when a draft of a writing assignment needs correcting. Children who lack working memory, on the other hand, likely have a range of issues in school, including: 

  • Poor memorization skills 
  • Difficulty paying attention in class 
  • Difficulty staying organized 
  • Struggles with completing math calculations in their heads 
  • Lots of mistakes in writing (difficulty retaining and remembering grammar rules) 
  • Difficulty working independently/easily distracted 
  • Frequent inability to answer questions correctly or thoughtfully when called on in class 
  • Frequent inability to follow multi-step directions 

Here’s the good news: You can help your child improve his or her working memory with brain-boosting exercises and other memory improvement strategies. Here are some easy ways to do so: 

MAKE SURE YOUR CHILD GETS SUFFICIENT SLEEP 

Children might roll their eyes at the “get more sleep” suggestion, but the research doesn’t lie. Sleep accelerates the improvement in working memory performance. A good night of sleep will help your child improve his or her memory and increase focus — among many other important benefits. 

PLAY MEMORY GAMES 

Certain games help children improve their working memory because they require them to keep track of their opponents’ moves and recall information quickly. Think card games, which require players to remember their cards and keep information in their heads long enough to decide their next move, and games like Simon, which has players memorize and repeat a color pattern that gets increasingly complex. 

BREAK DOWN BIGGER TASKS 

Have your child break down complex, detailed assignments into smaller steps. He or she should write them down and keep that to-do list visible. To strengthen working memory, encourage your child to use tools like graphic organizers, visual maps and checklists when doing homework. 

Working memory is one of the most essential functions students need, and it’s integral for the cognitive abilities that fuel school success. It is what allows children to manipulate, process and retain information. 

If you suspect your child has poor working memory, have a professional evaluate him or or her and develop a targeted plan of action that focuses on memory improvement, building confidence and improving academic performance. 


The Huntington Learning Center Gulfport is located at 8950 Lorraine Road, Unit E, Gulfport. Contact the center at (228) 206- 2353. 

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