A Trip To The Playground Can Strengthen Your Child’s Memory
This is a writeup of a recent article in “The Conversation” entitled “How To Use A Trip To The Playground To Help Your Children Strengthen Their Memory”.
To remember things, you need to give them your full attention.
American neuroscientist and bestselling author Lisa Genova’s key findings on preventing Alzheimer’s disease show how to enhance memory to retain information. This research can be adapted to children. Yes, children can be supported to exercise their mind muscles. They can learn the best ways to get information efficiently into their heads and access it effectively when they need to.
In her book “Remember: the science of memory and the art of forgetting”, Genova points out that to enhance memory we don’t need to play “computer brain games” or “read books on recall strategies”. What we simply need to do is improve our skills of noticing. She writes that “Noticing requires two things: perception (seeing, hearing, smelling, feeling) and attention”.
Put it into Practice
Use a trip to the playground to help your children strengthen memory muscles and become better learners. This can be done by paying attention, slowing down, mind mapping, rehearsing, enhancing the senses and mixing things up.
Start by filling your child’s backpack with snacks and drinks, and small figurines such as fairies, lions, tigers, koalas, dinosaurs or favorite small cars and trucks for storytelling and mud play. Bring binoculars and magnifying glasses – these are great for noticing and spying on birds and bugs. Pack watercolor paints, brushes and recycled paper for painting, chalk and brown baking paper for tracing bark, leaves, rocks, hands and play equipment. Play dough is great for natural sculptures.
Let the children create a mind map
Like all animals, humans use mind mapping to create maps of their immediate environment in order to navigate their surroundings. Our brains are wired to recall where things are located in space. (This has to be done on foot. )
Walking to the playground, run your hands across fence palings and smell rosemary twigs. Encourage your children to do this too.
Have your children collect eucalypt leaves, gum nuts, acorns and other natural loose objects and pop them in the bag to be used later in potions or paintings at the park. You could also have them make chalk drawings of rivers and fish on the pavement as a way of finding your path back home.
A lot of neural work is happening as children construct a mind map. The more time adds detail to the memory.
Exercising the mind
Once at the park, decrease distractions by not multitasking (turn you’re your devices). This allows space for noticing. Let your children explore playground equipment until they are out of breath and their bodies are tired.
Now it is time to exercise their minds. Point out and have them notice the layers of the playgrounds, the earth, grasses, tree roots, ants and bugs, plants and trees, leaves, birds and the sky.
Recall the event
Lie on your back with your children and have them close their eyes. Quietening the mind, through mindfulness, allows children to be dreamy. Relaxing in a meditative state can lower anxiety and tension. Research on children in nature reveals it alleviates hyperactivity and depression. The mind can be “trained to become less reactive, to put the brakes on the runaway stress response”.
Re-enacting stories using figurines or other objects can help children revisit positive and negative experiences they have encountered. Reactivating the neural circuits through retelling or externalizing experiences helps children forge positive memories and process conflicting emotions.
Click here to read “Don’t worry – your child’s early learning doesn’t stop just because they’re not in childcare”.
Click here to read “Why make-believe play is an important part of childhood development”.
You can encourage your child to make fairy lands or sand pit dinosaur worlds and play out past events. In this way, children can project emotions through the objects as they play out narratives.
Positive emotions like happiness and joy actually enhance children’s recall to re-activate past positive emotions.
You can lie on your back with your children and all close your eyes. Quietening the mind, through mindfulness, allows children to be dreamy. Relaxing in a meditative state can lower anxiety and tension. Research on children in nature reveals it alleviates hyperactivity and depression. The mind can be “trained to become less reactive, to put the brakes on the runaway stress response”.
Children often tuck away strong emotional responses to events or information until quiet moments. Reactivating the neural circuits through retelling or externalizing experiences helps children forge positive memories and process conflicting emotions. Re-enacting stories using figurines or other objects can help children revisit positive and negative experiences they have encountered.
We hope you have enjoyed this writeup. Please write us again and let us know if the suggested exercises were effective in strengthening your child’s memory.
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