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The Importance of Short Term & Long Term Memory in Children's Development

author image Lee Grayson
Lee Grayson has worked as a freelance writer since 2000. Her articles have appeared in publications for Oxford and Harvard University presses and research publishers, including Facts On File and ABC-CLIO. Grayson holds certificates from the University of California campuses at Irvine and San Diego.
The Importance of Short Term & Long Term Memory in Children's Development
Children learn memory skills during frequent practice sessions. Photo Credit RL Productions/Photodisc/Getty Images

Your child may surprise you with her ability to recall information during story-time, or a memory of an event that happened when she was a toddler. This type of recall isn't unusual for many children living in homes where parents encourage learning memory skills. Research reported by Penn State Extension shows children have the ability to remember events from the time the child developed a sense of self, which begins between the ages of 18 months and 2 years. Long- and short-term memory depends on your child's ability to use the stored information, not the size of the memory itself.

Memory Types

Children need both long- and short-term memory to succeed in school, personal pursuits, play, social lives and personal lives. Short-term memory, according to Indiana University, allows children to remember things that happen in the recent past such as details from a story read aloud. Long-term memory skills include remembering how to read and the names of friends and family members. Kids also use long-term memory to recall how to do basic movements and processes such as riding a bike and solving a puzzle.

Memory Skills

Pennsylvania State University Extension notes that both long- and short-term memory skills help children learn to think, plan, reflect, follow directions, solve problems, imagine and learn basic literacy skills. The service identifies key childhood memory developments as processes that happen between the ages of birth and age 8. Memory problems delay language and motor skill development, but parents can help children learn short-term memory skills, according to the National Center for Learning Disabilities, which recommends dividing new content into small segments and using the child's preferred type of memory skills, whether visual, auditory or tactile.

Developing Language

Learning language uses both long- and short-term memory abilities. The working short-term memory helps children collect information while they are listening and helps them quickly determine where to store the material according to the other items in the long-term memory, according to the National Center for Learning Disabilities. Children develop language using two types of working memory. The verbal type uses sounds to help recall information. Repeating the alphabet while drawing letters is an example of this short-term recall. The second-type of short-term memory uses visual and spatial clues to assist kids in remembering shapes, patterns, images and the sequencing of events. This recall helps children remember sentence construction and word-order to learn language.

Combining Memory and the Senses

Children learn the important skill of sorting long-term memory faster by linking senses and emotions with the information. Using the senses helps kids associate short-term memory with stored knowledge, according to researchers Marillia Conte Daros and David W. Gurney of the University of Florida. Children sort long-term memory to select an appropriate memory file to combine with the new information. The sensory match helps the child quickly combine prior knowledge with new information to process the message and determine what action, if any, is needed. The content in the long-term memory might also include clues about how to act on the new message.

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