How To Use A Trip To The Playground To Help Your Kids Build Their Memory

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Karen malone, Swinburne University of Technology

To remember things, you need to give them your full attention.

American neuroscientist and best-selling author of Still Alice, Lisa Genova’s key findings on Alzheimer’s disease prevention show how to improve memory to retain information. This research can be adapted for children.

Children can be supported to exercise their mental muscles. They can learn the best ways to get information efficiently into their heads and to access it efficiently when they need it.

In his book Remember: the science of memory and the art of forgetting Genova points out that in order to improve memory, we don’t need to play “artificial intelligence games” or “read books on recall strategies”, what we just need to do is improve our skills. ability to notice.

It written that “noticing requires two things: perception (seeing, hearing, smelling, smelling) and attention”.

You can enjoy a trip to the playground to help your kids build memory muscles and become better learners.

This can be done by paying attention, slowing down, mind mapping, repeating, enhancing the senses, and mixing things up.

Getting There

Fill your child’s backpack with snacks and drinks, as well as small figures such as fairies, lions, tigers, koalas, dinosaurs or favorite toy cars and trucks to tell stories and play in the mud.

The figures are ideal for telling stories and playing in the mud. Karen Malone, author provided

Children’s binoculars and magnifiers are great for spotting and spying on birds and insects.

Carry watercolor paints, brushes and recycled paper for painting, as well as chalk and brown parchment paper for tracing bark, leaves, stones, hands and play materials. Plasticine is ideal for natural sculptures.

Then you are on your way.

Creating a mind map

Like all animals, humans use mind mapping to create maps of our immediate surroundings in order to navigate our surroundings. Our brains are wired to remember where things are in space.

For wild animals this is essential for survival and for children it helps them feel safe. You can’t do mind mapping in a car – it requires walking.

Walk to the playground, run your hands over the fences and smell the rosemary twigs. Encourage your children to do this too.

Brother and sister holding hands as they walk past a lake.
Let your kids notice the things around them to create a mind map of their journey. Shutterstock

Collect eucalyptus leaves, gum nuts, acorns and other loose natural items and place them in the bag to use them later in potions or paints at the park.

You can chalk the rivers and fish on the sidewalk to find your way home.

This pace may seem slow, but to really notice it you have to slow down. A lot of neural work happens as children build a mind map. More time adds detail to memory.

Mind exercise

Once at the park, reduce distractions by avoiding multitasking (turning off devices). This leaves space to notice.

Let your children explore the play equipment until they are breathless and their bodies are tired.

Now is the time to exercise their minds. Take a break to consider the layers of the playgrounds, soil, grasses, tree roots, ants and insects, plants and trees, leaves, birds and the sky.


Read more: Don’t worry, your child’s early learning doesn’t stop just because they’re not in daycare


You can lie on your back with your children and all close their eyes. Calming the mind, through mindfulness, allows children to be dreamers. Relaxing in a meditative state can reduce anxiety and tension. Research on children in nature reveals it relieves hyperactivity and depression. the the mind can be “Trained to become less reactive, to slow down the runaway stress response”.

Child's hand touching the bark of a tree trunk.
Nature helps children relax. Karen Malone, author provided

You can now unpack the figures. These can be used for children to tell stories by adding twigs and leaves for the scene. They could mix petals and water in magic potions.

Children often hide strong emotional reactions to events or news until quiet times. Reactivating neural circuits by recounting or externalizing experiences helps children form positive memories and deal with conflicting emotions.

Putting together stories using figurines or other objects can help children revisit the positive and negative experiences they have had.


Read more: Why pretending to play is an important part of childhood development


You can encourage your child to create fairylands or dinosaur worlds in sand pits and replay past events. In this way, children can project emotions through objects while playing stories.

Positive emotions like happiness and joy actually enhance children’s recall to reactivate positive emotions from the past. By focusing on individual senses or emotional responses, children learn to relate cues to association. This creates important new directories to be recovered later.

Girl playing with a fairy door in a tree.
Fairy worlds can help your children replay previous experiences. Karen Malone, author provided

Multi-sensory and meaningful encounters improve our perceptions and memories by creating multineural channels. This can be done using a range of senses: smell, touch, sound, etc.

You can encourage your children to take a break and smell the scents, listen to the birds, run a feather through their fingers, pick up stones. and touch the rough bark and trace it onto baking paper.

Set up crayons and paints to draw flowers or stacked stone sculptures.

Mix and revisit

Genova writes that “the similitude is the kiss of death in memory”. If you want the kids to remember more of what happened, break out of set routines and mix things up.


Read more: Nature detectives in the yard: 3 science activities for curious children this summer


Go somewhere new, do something different. Look for ways to make the playground experience unusual.

You can eat only green foods, create short digital stories, print photographs, revisit paintings, drawings and plots, mark your trip on a map, then recount and reactivate children’s experiences as they fall asleep. .

Karen malone, professor, environmental sustainability and childhood studies, Swinburne University of Technology

This article is republished from The conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read it original article.


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