Understanding the Concept of Working Memory
Working memory is the capacity to maintain information in our consciousness while using it for cognitive operations. Essentially, working memory is a set of systems that enables us to sustain multiple thoughts at once, serving as a mental platform for holding and processing data. It’s the ability to retain the information we require at the moment without being sidetracked.
It helps us tackle a problem, come up with solutions to new problems, recall what we’re engaged in, and stay focused. This mental workspace, where we handle data and solve equations, is deployed for planning and carrying out activities.
The Crucial Role of Working Memory
Our brains are forever evolving and changing, irrespective of our age. Thanks to neuroplasticity, we have the ability to modify certain aspects of how our cognitive functions work, one of which is our working memory. The greater your working memory capacity, the more data and content you can manage. Children have a smaller working memory compared to adults, thus developing strong working memory becomes vital for their educational success. Consider working memory as a mental desk where you can keep and manipulate information for immediate use. It empowers an individual to learn and store new data in the short term. Therefore, it’s crucial that we continually push ourselves to enhance and cultivate our working memory.
A shortfall in working memory can hinder abilities in school subjects such as comprehension of reading materials, writing, and math. Issues with understanding reading content in older kids are often associated with deficiencies in verbal working memory. Kids with a less developed working memory are more inclined to struggle with reading and math compared to their peers, and they may also face challenges in understanding verbal instructions. Consequently, they may lose track of what is expected from them.
Studies suggest that approximately 10 to 15 percent of school-aged children experience a deficiency in working memory. Such kids often face challenges with social interactions with peers, show reluctance in engaging in school activities, and sometimes struggle to respond to straightforward questions. They may find it hard to follow directions, get easily distracted, and surrender on complex tasks. However, it’s crucial to note that a weak working memory is not an indicator of a child’s intelligence. During research into elementary students’ developmental stages, it was found that early improvement in working memory often leads to later success in math. Even IQ and achievement tests can be influenced by working memory. Yet, it remains a fact that one cannot equate working memory with general intelligence.
How Can I Enhance My Child’s Working Memory Skills?
Are there methods we can employ to help our children develop stronger working memory skills? Even though children with a strong working memory generally perform well academically, it isn’t something they’re necessarily born with. Here are several strategies you can use to help your child bolster this essential cognitive function:
Adopt Regular Habits and Carefully Manage Changes
Children can benefit from predictability, which essentially means the constant repetition of fundamental principles. This approach helps to free up working memory, enabling your child to focus on new data.
Sudden or unplanned changes can be quite unsettling for a child who isn’t prepared for them. It can be particularly challenging for a child with weak working memory. We know that stress can influence executive functioning skills negatively. Even regular adults can be affected by this when under stress.
You can aid your child’s focus on the task at hand by starting your instructions with action words. Ensure they are straightforward, succinct, and repeated. Implementing these techniques can prevent cognitive overload and possibly stressful situations for your child.
Working memory is primarily an executive functioning skill, meaning that children with other executive functioning issues may struggle with tasks involving multiple steps or prioritizing key information. Our working memory plays a crucial role in our ability to learn and absorb new data, keeping us focused even if there are distractions.
If your child struggles to stay focused and their working memory is cluttered with various smaller tasks, it becomes challenging for them to absorb any new information. This is where your support, restructuring the outline of a task, and providing visual hints can be beneficial; these actions assist in freeing up their working memory to operate at a more sophisticated level with fresh content.
Use Planning Aids and Reminders (Particularly if Your Child Is Learning Remotely)
Children who have less developed working memory skills frequently depend on cues from classmates in the classroom to start or finish a task. When studying online, these children face difficulties due to their inability to connect with their peers. This, coupled with the lack of structure and certainty in their daily routine, can make online learning particularly challenging. Having daily visual timetables and setting alarms and reminders can be a game-changer. These simple tools help kids to offload the task of remembering from their minds and reduce the mental clutter, allowing them to focus on more critical tasks.
Enhance and Support Their Educational Skills
A crucial element in nurturing a child’s working memory is ensuring they have sound foundations in reading comprehension and math. These skills enhance information processing, increase cognitive load and encourage pattern recognition. Writing is a very important skill too because it employs significant executive functioning skills, such as working memory and focus. When children write, it can be challenging to keep an account of numerous thoughts.
They need to decide how their thoughts will be arranged into paragraphs and an overall structure. This requires remembering relevant information, like genre, and familiarity with corresponding content. Practice these skills with your child with the help of available offline resources like workbooks and play sets, as well as online learning libraries like Kids Academy.
Playing games is a crucial activity for enhancing a child’s working memory because it combines fun with cognitive challenges. Games often require players to remember rules, strategies, and the actions of other players, all of which exercise and strengthen working memory. Moreover, many games involve multitasking and quick decision-making, which further challenge and improve this cognitive skill. Regularly engaging in such activities can result in significant improvements in working memory capacity. Additionally, the enjoyable nature of games can motivate children to participate in these activities regularly. Any board games or the well-known Simon Says can work here.
This article has offered some strategies on how you can assist your child in enhancing their working memory. To help you and your young learner with this task, the comprehensive edutainment platform Kids Academy offers a wealth of resources that you can find on its website, as well as its learning apps. By using the suggestions mentioned in the article in combination with Kids Academy edutainment resources, you can help your child build a stronger working memory, aiding them in their academic journey and beyond.