Why does my child have a hard time remembering things

A strong memory is a prerequisite for easy learning. A child who has a good memory will do well academically, understand the world better while inculcating positive skills that will be highly beneficial later on. What if your child finds it difficult to remember? It can be a source of frustration to both you and your child. Now, this inability to retain information or remember details can cause learning difficulty.

According to cognitive psychologists, the problem of forgetfulness and poor memory retention in children emanates from issues with ‘working memory’. Working memory helps learners retain information for a limited time. If your child finds it difficult to remember what he was taught in class and feels incompetent about his learning ability, then it may be a sign of poor working memory.

Understanding how working memory affects your child is the clue to unravelling why your child finds it difficult to remember things.

Why does my child have a hard time remembering things

Read: How do you know if your child is a slow learner?

How weak working memory causes forgetfulness in children

Working memory (or short-term memory) helps a child in retrieving or recalling information because it is where new information is stored first. Whatever a child learns is stored in the working memory. It is not the same as rote memory or ‘cramming’. Working memory is the first stage of memorisation. It is required in school tasks like remembering directions or questions, solving mathematical equations, maintaining focus, concentration and paying attention, reading and comprehending passages.

Weak working memory can harm your child’s ability to learn. It may cause forgetfulness and difficulty in remembering things, abysmal performances in learning environments, inability to complete tasks with multiple steps, lack of concentration and distraction, low-self esteem, and failure to organise or plan.

Read:How do I help my child who is struggling in school

How to improve your child’s working memory

The good news is that there are research-backed strategies that can boost your child’s working memory, they include


One of the most crucial techniques which can be used to assimilate new information is visualisation. It is a way of creating images or mental pictures. It is synonymous to ‘imagination’. It can be used to improve reading and comprehension of passages in classrooms and home. A child is more likely to recall what he has visualised or imagined than what he has merely read. Studies have shown that visualisation engages the five senses and passes a lot of information to the brain; this will help in encoding and retrieval of memory.

Memory games

Memory games have a host of great benefits for children. Firstly, they enhance or better the thinking skills of children, especially the interactive ones. Memory games encompass spellings and writing tasks which help to bolster communication skills. They are also proven to promote active learning and boost attention and concentration in children. Memory games, like puzzles, can improve children’s problem-solving technique and pattern recognition. Examples of great memory games include picture bingo and brain box.

Break information into a smaller bit or ‘chunks’

A learning strategy called ‘chunking’ is very instrumental in memory retention. It involves breaking down complex information into smaller ‘chunks’ or ‘units’ for easy assimilation or mastery. This strategy can be seen in phone numbers and birth dates.

According to experts, chunking is one of the ways that ‘help in bypassing the limited capacity of working memory’. This means chunking improves comprehension and memory recall. For instance, the topic ‘colour’ can be broken down into ‘types’, ‘functions’, and ‘how to identify colour’.


Asking your child open-ending questioning is a great way of widening your child’s capacity to think. It can enhance comprehension, boost your child’s communication skills while sharpening his vocabulary and expressive power. To answer an open-ending question, your child will need to pay close attention, which will, in turn, promote mindfulness and concentration in him. Open-ending questions begin with ‘what’, ‘why’, ‘how’, ‘tell me about…’, ‘i would like to know…’, ‘in what way…’, ‘what do you think…’ amongst others.


Mnemonics are learning strategies that can help your child to retrieve or retain information. It is a process in which a learning material or information is linked or connected to something more convenient or easy-to-remember. Mnemonics create a ‘memory bridge’ that makes it easy for learners to remember complex information. You can encourage your child to have his mnemonics for information he finds difficult. For instance, if he is unable to memorise the names of the colour of the rainbow, he can use the name ‘Roy G. Biv I’ which stands for ‘red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet’.

Read: How to help a child with reading difficulties

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