Keeping Memory Skills Sharp

Dear Dr. Linda,

Thank you for last week’s column. Our children and grandchildren had a lot of fun memorizing the preamble to the Constitution while we ate our hamburgers and hot dogs at our son’s home celebrating the Fourth of July.

Many of us, especially the ones over 65, already knew it because we had to memorize it in school. We couldn’t believe how much we remembered. Do you have any other suggestions on what my wife and I can do with our grandchildren when they come to visit that will help improve their memories?

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Dear Chuck,

I’m glad you had fun with the preamble. I’m impressed that you remembered most of it. That just goes to show how much we learn as children that remains with us throughout our lifetimes. It’s a good idea for all of us—no matter how young or old—to focus on developing and using memory skills and strategies because learning anything involves being engaged and sustaining attention, all in service of getting necessary information from short-term into long-term memory.

And, it will be good for you as well. Here are a variety of activities you can do with your grandchildren that will engage them and help keep all your memory skills sharp:

1. Crossword puzzles—Keep them age-appropriate in terms of vocabulary, but don’t make them too simple.

2. Jigsaw puzzles—They require visual memory of shapes and colors.

3. Shopping lists—Make this fun by using acronyms. An acronym is a word formed from the initial letters of other words. Sometimes the acronym is a real word or it can be a silly word you made up. You may have learned to recite the names of the Great Lakes by using the acronym HOMES…Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie, Superior. So, next time you’re going shopping, instead of writing a list, makeup an acronym. For example, the word MAYBE would remind you that you need to buy, Milk, Apples, Yogurt, Bananas, Eggs.

4. The “paper bag” game—Pretend there’s a paper bag. The first person says what they put in the bag; the second repeats what the first person said and adds another item; the third person repeats the first two items and adds another item, etc. The winner is the last person who remembers all the items in the bag.

5. Tell stories—Storytelling makes the brain think in a logical sequence. For example, tell your grandchildren about a funny experience you had when you were a child. Let your grandchildren tell you something funny that happened to them. Encourage by asking the old “Who, What, When, Where” questions.

6. Move!—Dancing, sports, exercising, anything that involves physical movement keeps the brain active, not to mention helping with memory. For example, remembering the steps to a fun dance or the sequence of movements in shooting a basketball.

7. Rhythm, rhyme and song—They can improve memory function. For example, children learn their ABC’s singing “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” with different words. Singing a familiar tune with new words helps memory.

8. Role play—Memorize lines in a play to help memory. It’s a no-brainer.

9. Play card games—You must remember what cards have been played, which cards may still be “out.”

10. Play board games—They involve remembering rules and strategies from one session to the next.

Have fun,

Dr. Linda

Contact Dr. Linda at if you have a question relating to school or learning.

The opinions expressed herein are the writer's alone, and do not reflect the opinions of or anyone who works for is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the writer.

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