Thursday, April 7, 2011

Ten Tips for Helping Kids Memorize

Many of us underestimate our children's ability to memorize. Those little sponges absorb and retain a phenomenal amount of information.
Once when my son, Daniel, was about three years old, I promised him we could bake chocolate chip cookies together. He was so anxious and excited about it, he could hardly wait. I was busy with his little sister, and when I finally made it to the kitchen, I saw that he had carefully placed on the counter every ingredient we would need plus a mixing bowl, measuring cups, and measuring spoons. I couldn't believe it! He was THREE! He couldn't possibly read a recipe, but he had seen me bake cookies before, and he memorized all the ingredients...from the brown and white sugars down to the baking soda and vanilla. He even knew how many eggs we needed!
I shouldn't have been so surprised. The same kid could rattle off every line in the movie "Toy Story" and name every Star Wars figure known to man. Our children's little minds are truly amazing! This experience reinforced to me that I really should be capitalizing on the opportunity to teach them while they're young and even help them commit to memory valuable information. From poems to scriptures to multiplication tables, children who can memorize are miles ahead of those that never learn how.
Here are some tips/methods for helping your kids memorize:

1. Put it to Music - Children can hear a silly rhyme or song once and sing it again days later. Something about the rhythm, rhyme, and melody helps it stick. Think about it. How do we teach them their ABC's? We sing them. Whatever you want your children to learn, your chances are increased significantly if you put it to music. Forth graders are able to memorize all fifty states...IN just a couple of days by learning a catchy tune. My youngest used to sing at the top of her lungs every time she was sitting on the potty (something about the echo in the bathroom, I guess). What did she sing? The days of the week. Thanks to a big purple dinosaur named Barney, she had them memorized as a two-year-old because they were set to music.

2. Echo - Slip on a "magic" glove (any ole' glove will do). When it points to mom, it's her turn; when it points to the child, it's his turn. Recite just a few words at a time and then have the child repeat (echo) what you say. Add on one or two more words each time.

3. Recite in Different Voices - This is a fun way to increase repetition while minimizing boredom. Have the kids recite it in baby talk, in a British accent, in an army sergeant's command, in an opera singer's voice, in a whisper, in a fast-speed chipmunk voice, in a robot voice, in a Donald Duck voice, country western style, etc. You get the idea. Be creative and have fun with it.

4. Erase It - For children who can read, write out the entire verse on a dry-erase board or chalkboard. Have them read it aloud and then chose one word to erase. Read aloud again (including the missing word) and choose a second word to erase. Continue to repeat. Eventually, the entire verse will be erased and they will recite it on their own.

5. Create an Acronym - Instead of writing out the entire verse, just give them the first letter of each word as sort of a "cheat sheet". For example, if they were memorizing The Pledge of Allegience, you would write "I P A T T F O T U S O A..." I often use this tool with "Erase It" great for adults too!

6. Review Often-If you don't use it, you lose it. Review especially right before bedtime. I once read that we should pay close attention to what enters our child's mind right before sleep. Whatever a child hears, sees, or experiences immediately before dozing off sticks with them throughout the night. Knowing this, I would much rather have a poem about honesty or obedience in their impressionable little minds than the nightmare of mom screaming at them to get into bed--just another valuable tidbit of information that I found very useful.

7. Create an Acrostic - What the heck is an acrostic? I've used them many times, but didn't know they had a name. Lists can be challenging to learn, especially in the right order. For example, the seventh Article of Faith lists: "tongues, prophecy, visions, healing, interpretation of tongues...." When my oldest was memorizing this we both had trouble getting them in order. I suggested that he come up with a sentence made of words that started with the same letters (TPVHI). I have to admit, every time I recite the 7th Article of Faith now, I think of his boyish sentence and it puts a smile on my face. Ready for this? "Toilet Paper Very Helpful Indeed!" That was his acrostic! Whatever it takes, right? Many school age children learn the planets in order the same way. Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, Pluto ="My Very Energetic Mom Just Served Us Nine Pizzas." Cool tool, huh?

8. Break it up - When your kids are memorizing anything of significant length, it's always helpful to divide it into manageable pieces. This is especially useful with long lists of numbers. One school teacher used this method for helping young children memorize their phone number quickly. First she talked about their having a first, middle, and last name. She had them each write down their three names. Then she explained that their phone number had a first, middle, and last name. What's your phone number's first name? (213) What's your phone number's middle name? (398) What's your phone number's last name (7682). What's your phone number's name? 213-398-7682. Memorizing ten digits in a row may be too challenging, but three smaller sets of numbers is not.

9. Use more Senses - The more senses your child uses, the more engaged her brain is and the stronger the imprint left on her memory. It has been said that we only retain a small percentage of what we hear, we remember a greater percentage of what we hear and see, and an even larger percentage of what we hear, see, and do. When helping children memorize, it's useful to add visual aids and/or actions. American sign language or other simple hand gestures assist with the memory process. So, make some flashcards or a poster; better yet, have your child help make them. If you want your child to do well on a spelling test, in addition to having her look at the words, and spell the words aloud, have her write the words repeatedly. It's not just "busy work". The more senses she uses, the more she'll remember.

10. Repetition - Quote the poem, verse, or article over and over. Repetition can be extremely helpful in learning patterns. Did you know that in the past few years, learning by repetition has been associated with forming the connection of synapses in brain cells? Basically, this helps with not only learning the information in the first place, but also in recalling it throughout the life of the child. Once the information has been memorized using repetition, the information is more easily recalled in the future. That must be why I still remember all the poems I memorized in elementary school. Repeat, repeat, repeat!

I hope these tips are helpful to you and your children. They've certainly worked for me and mine. :)


  1. Thanks for the helpful hints. I am trying to help my daughter memorize the 13 Articles of Faith so she can complete her Faith in God requirements. Great ideas!

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  2. Eileen, thanks for visiting my blog...and for leaving a nice comment. Good luck it! :)

  3. Great hints. Thank you.

  4. What you heard about what enters a childs mind before sleep is very true. When I first heard that 20 years ago I bought cassette tapes to play at bedtime and when my newborn daughter Cheyenne-Rose would take a nap or go to bed at night I'd play these tapes, WOW was I surprised at what she retained and how it has helped her mind open up more & be more obsorbant. She was so advanced they wanted to skip her a grade. I honestly believe playing educational tapes while she slept helped.

  5. Thanks this would be a big help for me especially in my case i had two kids.... repetition method is very useful for them..

    thanks a lot,

  6. wow, thank you! really helpful... reciting in a robot voice for a mom! i may sound funny but it's really effective!


  7. thank you for the suggestions! love it!

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  10. Catherine BonganayApril 27, 2016 at 11:53 PM

    Hi thankyou for this blog this is really helpful. Im trying to teach my 3yrs old son a bible verse and a poem which is a requirement on his summer class. His teacher said that they will be having individual recitation on tuesday. Hope we can make it :) thankyou

  11. Wonderful! You have worded those sentences so beautifully. It Helps Me When I read personal information too. Keep up your good work!

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  13. Good tips, can you suggest some books on the same topics ??

  14. Great tips here! Happy to read this one. I have 2 year old baby and she easily remember things. I'm a Teacher in Gulfport, You could check out my website Kid Academy

  15. Who often gets school tasks to remember? For school children starting in kindergarten, elementary school, high school, high school even for college, the task of remembering is always there. Lessons that often require students to remember include history lessons, Citizenship Education (PKN), Islamic Religion, Indonesian Language, Physics, Chemistry, etc. Therefore, you need to know how to quickly remember lessons .

    In fact, almost every subject requires students to remember memorization . For example, math topics. Although it is more dominant with reading, writing and arithmetic, but at junior high school level, there are many formula formulas that need to be saved. How is it possible to work on mathematical problems if you do not remember the formula to do so.

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