What is auditory memory and why is it important for children?
Auditory memory is what we use to help us retain information that we receive through listening. In order to remember and recall information that we hear, it needs to be held in the brain for a short period to allow us to process it. Auditory memory plays an important part in a child being able to learn new concepts. If a child cannot retain information accurately and long enough to process it then the brain will not be able to store it well for them to use later on.
Remembering the information we receive through our ears is different to remembering things that we see. When we remember words, we can often look at them over and over again if we don’t remember them the first time. We usually only get a quick chance with listening!
This is a skill that can be more difficult for children with hearing loss who may not hear sound as clearly or at as long a distance away.
An important skill for all children, here are some fun activities that encourage the development of your child’s auditory memories.
Reading stories together: Having children recall specific things that happened in the book.
An easier option for new listeners, recall what has happened on each page using the pictures, then move to remember the pages, and eventually a whole picture book without the pictures and pages to help.
Challenging option for experienced listeners- increase the number of things a child needs to remember with pictures then without the pictures as they progress.
Shopping lists: Give your child a few items off your shopping list and get them to “remind” you of what you need to buy while grocery shopping.
The easier option for new listeners is to wait until you are near the item that you want them to remember before prompting a reminder. The child will have a visual prompt which will make this more simple at first. Once that has been mastered, move to remember the item without being near it in the store.
Challenging option for experienced listeners- Have children remember more than one item off your list, start with visual reminders as above then move towards more items without visual prompts.
Play hide and seek: Hide the toy then give them a series of hints as to where the toy is. See if your child is able to recall the clues and find the toy.
The beginner’s option for new listeners is to start with one clue at a time and choose an easier hiding place that will take fewer steps to find e.g. behind the couch.
Step up to a more challenging option for experienced listeners, choose harder hiding places such as inside things where children will need to follow more instructions to find the toy. Up the ante by giving your child more than one clue at once.
Memory games: One fun game is going to the zoo game, it’s great to involve the whole family in this one. Each person takes a turn at saying what animal they are going to see at the zoo. With each new person, they need to recall the previous things that other family members have said that they are going to see before they add their own animal on.
An easier option for new listeners is to have your child take their turn near the beginning of the game so there is less to remember.
Make the game more challenging by having your child take their turn later, so they have to remember more animals. Start off by recalling animals in any order, as they improve, have them repeat them back in the correct order.
Tips for success when playing auditory memory games:
- Start off easy with only one or two things that children need to remember. As they improve, make it more challenging for them by adding more instructions or items that children need to remember. Having success in tasks will keep them motivated and they are will be more likely to participate for longer periods.
- Keep it realistic for your child’s age. Their brains are still developing and growing so there are limitations to how much they can process at once. The general rule of thumb is remembering one item at a time for 12-23-month-olds, two items for 2-year-olds and three items for 3-year-olds.
- Decrease how predictable the instructions are as you go along to make them more difficult. For example instead of telling a child to put their socks in the washing basket, tell them to put them in the bathtub.
As with all activities you can adapt these to fit with whatever you happen to be doing during your day with resources you have around your home. You can practise for as long or as short a time as your child enjoys. But above all, have fun!
Written by Brooke Rose, Audiologist at The Shepherd Centre.