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Helping children remember what they hear

​​Being able to listen and remember what we hear people say is called auditory memory. Most children can remember more words, longer sentences, and more information as they get older. But some children have problems remembering what they hear.

A child with poor auditory memory might have problems with:

  • following directions
  • remembering their address or phone number
  • remembering songs, poems, or simple nursery rhymes that other children know from memory

​​​​​How can I help my child with remembering?

Below are some activities that you can do to help your child build memory skills.

Get your child’s attention. Call your child’s name and wait for a response before giving them directions (e.g., “Joe…. please put your backpack by the front door.”).

Get rid of distractions. Noises like the television, radio, and other people talking make it hard for your child to listen and follow directions.

Repeat things out loud. Teach your child to repeat spoken messages out loud. Later, they can practice saying the messages silently to themself.

Have your child practice saying information such as their full name, address, telephone number, date of birth, letters of the alphabet, days of the week, months of the year, and seasons.

Play memory games.

  • Clap your hands and ask your child to repeat your rhythm. Vary the number of claps, tempo, and rhythm. Your child can also clap a rhythm for you to repeat.
  • Ask your child to follow directions for simple movements (e.g., skip, hop, walk, run). Then follow your child’s directions.
  • Say a sentence like, “I went on a trip, and in my suitcase I took my shoes.” The next person repeats the information and adds another item. The game continues until someone can’t remember the order of items.

Teach your child to put words in categories. This will help your child to organize and store words. Imagine a grocery store that didn’t sort food into categories. You would have a very hard time finding the items you want to buy. When things are organized, we can find what we want quickly and easily. In the same way, a child who can put words into categories can quickly find and use words.

Ask your child to help sort laundry, put away groceries, and sort the recycle bin. Talk about why things belong in certain places and not in others (e.g., darks and whites, frozen goods, canned items, vegetables and fruits, paper, plastic, cans, cardboard).

Teach word associations. Word associations are the ways in which words are linked or related. Like categories, word associations help people organize and store words. The more word associations a child makes, the better they will remember and use new words.

  • When you are cooking with your child, ask them to think about items and ingredients that go together (e.g., hot-dogs and mustard, cereal and milk).
  • When you’re talking about the days of the week, associate each day with the activities and events that happen on that day (e.g., Tuesday is soccer, Thursday is swimming).

​​​​​For older children:

  • Teach your child to write short notes to themself to help them remember.
  • Teach your child to make pictures in their mind of information they want to remember.

Use everyday activities to improve your child’s memory skills. Give your child many chances to practice and encourage them to try them on their own.​

Where to go get help

For more information about how speech-language pathologists and audiologists can help, contact:

  • Your doctor, public health nurse, or other health provider
  • Your local health centre​

Modified from Parent Articles © 1988​​​

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