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Games That Boost Your Toddler's Memory

As the parent of a toddler, you may often find yourself mystified by her inability to remember seemingly simple facts: your next-door neighbor’s name, for instance, or who was at preschool that day. Even though it sometimes seems as if your tot has the working memory of a goldfish, you can rest assured: Her tiny memory bank is working hard to develop the ability to store and recall information. Since the development of your child’s memory can affect everything from her overall cognitive development to her future academic success, its importance cannot be underestimated. Fun games can help to boost your toddler’s memory while enhancing her ability to reason.

Find the match

One of the most traditional ways to foster a toddler’s memory is through a basic matching game, in which your child has to find and identify matching pairs of objects or cards. There is no need to buy a fancy-schmancy memory-card game, because you’ll find plenty of free games in both printable and electronic formats—and in just about every kid-friendly theme imaginable—by conducting a simple keyword search online. If you give your tot access to a smartphone or tablet, you can check the app store to see what free memory game apps are available for your device.

What's missing?

Set up a row of three or four different small toys. For instance, you could use a miniature stuffed animal, a toy car and a crayon. Tell your toddler to cover his eyes and then hide one of the toys under an opaque plastic cup or bowl. Have your tot to open his eyes and try to guess which toy is hidden. If your child isn’t sure which toy is hidden, try prompting him: “We had three toys, remember? The crayon, the car, and the monkey. Which one do you think is hidden under the cup?” When he guesses correctly, offer exuberant praise and then give him the opportunity to “quiz” you on the missing object. To further develop his spatial recognition skills, mix up the objects each time you play. If you have an older toddler, hide a small toy under one of the cups and then ask him to try to follow the object as you shift the cups around.

Patterns and colors

Gather of a combination of objects that you can use to replicate a pattern, like different-colored blocks or plastic cups. Put three or four of the objects in a pattern such as red, blue, red, blue. Have your child look at the pattern for a few minutes and then mix up the objects. Then ask her to try to replicate the pattern on her own. When she gets it correct, heap on the praise. The key to this activity is keeping the pattern very simple. Use only two colors at first and then, as your child’s pattern recognition skills improve, build up to three or four different colors or sets of objects.

Words and pictures

Children love animals just as much as they love making noise. To help improve your child’s memory, try combining the two. Using a picture book or animal pictures clipped from magazines, point to an animal and vocalize the sound the animal makes: “See the picture of the cow? The cow says, ‘Moooooooo!’ Can you say ‘moo,’ too?” After you’ve gone through the book or pictures a few times, engage your child’s memory by asking her to associate sounds with the appropriate animal: “Can you point to the animal that says, ‘Oink?’” “Can you find the animal that barks?” Not only will these animal-sound activities work on your child’s memory skills, but they also will improve his listening, language and reasoning skills.

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