Health & Fitness
How’s Your Working Memory Working?
Do you remember last week’s blog on executive function skills? Today’s topic is about working memory, a vital component of executive function.
Did you ever walk into a room with great determination and when you got there, you couldn’t remember why you were there? Something distracted you along the way and you couldn’t keep all the parts of the task in mind.
That’s an example of your working memory failing you. Blame it on your mental workspace, or mental notepad.
Here’s another; you call a friend and while waiting for her to answer you begin another task. When the person answers the phone you can’t remember whom you called.
We all have working memory challenges and it doesn’t mean your intelligence quotient is going down. There might be too much going on in your life; you may be exhausted after a full day of multi-tasking and there’s no room left in your mental workspace; or maybe you got distracted or had too many interruptions while trying to complete a task.
Children’s working memory capacity expands over time. A three-year old can’t handle as many directions at one time as a seven year old. Some children are challenged with their working memory. Sometimes it’s hard to tell if the issue is working memory or an attention issue.
The following hints will support either challenge.
Children can sharpen their working memory with practice and the use of effective strategies.
Making a silly, healthy breakfast can be just the right kind of activity in which to practice working memory with your child.
Plan ahead for a time when you are relaxed and ready for some fun.
Use our book, Funny Food, to get some new ideas for what you might make.
Make a list of the healthy ingredients you will need to create the wacky breakfast.
Cut up some ingredients so they are ready to use in your creation.
Before playing with the food, it may help to draw a sketch of what your child wants to create. These strategies: looking at models first, listing the ingredients and preview the plate by making a sketch, and cut up some ingredients in advance are ways to relieve some of the stress on the child’s working memory.
By planning in phases you are breaking down the job, making it less complex and demanding on working memory. The child can focus on one thing at a time. Previewing what’s to come and looking at the task in small steps models strategies your child can use on his own. It is particularly helpful if you discuss the strategies explicitly. For example, you might say, “If we write down the ingredients we’ll be sure to have everything we need.” Or, “making a sketch helps us picture what we want to make.”
When kids struggle with working memory they don’t feel “smart”. They need to know that everyone has challenges and there are ways they can help themselves. And, most important, it doesn’t mean they are not “smart.”