Anyone who's ever asked their toddler where they put their shoes probably knows that they aren't exactly known for their memories. However, if you have an important occasion coming up, like a wedding or a family vacation, it's natural to wonder if there are ways to help your toddler remember special moments. Like, is it possible to create memories that last a lifetime with your child, even when they are as young as 1- or 2-years-old? Or are better off waiting to take a family trip when they are old enough to actually remember it?
It turns out, there are things you can do to absolutely help boost your child's memory, to a point. According to a study published in the journal Developmental Psychology, children suffer from a condition called childhood amnesia, or the inability to form memories as children that last until adulthood, until they reach the age of 3. But this age might not be set in stone. As psychologist Nora Newcombe told Fatherly.com, kids are better able to remember feelings than events. So, if you want to help your toddler retain memories of a specific time or place, it might be best to remind them how it made them feel.
Other memory-boosters include repetition, so if you can repeat the experience year after year or look at pictures from your trip, it can help your toddler form childhood memories that lost well into adulthood. So with that in mind, here are a few ways to help your little one remember all the fun you've been having:
Talk About Them
As early childhood expert Jill Uhlenberg, Ph.D. explained to Parents.com, repetition is the best way to remember things as an adult, and the same is true for kids. So if you want your child to remember a special moment, the key might be to keep talking about that event often, and as they grow, to remind them about what happened.
Focus On Feelings
As Nora Newcombe, a professor of Psychology at Temple University, told Fatherly.com, children store different kind of memories than adults. While adults can recall specific events — or explicit memories — kids remember how those events made them feel — or implicit memories. So, if you want your child to remember a trip, you should try focusing on how it felt, rather than what happened, to help them remember.
According to Parents.com, taking lots of pictures during a special event and looking at them with your child can help them recount what happened.
Repeat The Experience
While it might not always be possible, the best way to boost your child's memory of a special trip might be to repeat the experience. As psychologist Susan Newman told Yahoo Lifestyle, making a trip an annual affair can help your child form lasting memories.
Another idea Newman suggests is bringing back mementos or keepsakes from your trip or event, that your child can hold or look at to better remember what happened.
Tell Stories About It
As Slate reported, young kids are way more likely to remember events that their parents continue to tell them about. Turns out, remembering a story is way easier than remembering a person, place, or thing. So if you want your child to continue to remember an event long after it happens, the key might be telling them about it in narrative form, or even better, asking them to tell you a story about it.
Make Sure They Get Enough Sleep
While it's easier said than done, especially on a vacation or trip, one study published in the Journal of Sleep Research showed that getting enough sleep can actually help both children and adults form memories.
Wait Until They Are Older
According to one study published in the journal Developmental Psychobiology, while children start to develop the ability to recall specific events at age 3, they are way better at remembering childhood events in the future that happen after age 4. So if you are planning a special trip to Disney World, you might be better off taking your older preschooler than your toddler, especially if you want them to be able to remember the trip as they age.