Boost Your Preschoolers' Memory Skills

Interactive Learning Environments May Boost Preschoolers’ Memory Skills

The Aleutian Islands are part of the state of Alaska. Many adults who read this little known fact may not be able to recall it later. Now, imagine asking 4- and 5-year-olds to learn and retain it. That’s exactly what researchers required of preschoolers in a new study exploring interactive learning and children’s memory.

The results, published in Infant and Child Development, found that preschoolers were better able to retain and recall novel facts when learning occurred in an interactive and creative environment. For instance, when children learned about the Aleutian Islands, the teacher brought in a treasure chest, a suit case, and a large map of Alaska and the islands. At the conclusion of the lesson, children walked across the map that identified the islands’ location.

Researchers discovered that this type of interactive learning environment was conducive to the acquisition of new knowledge with young children.

To test this, researchers examined sixty 4- to 5-year-olds in two staged learning events, separated by a 4- to 5-day interval. 

During each learning event, children were shown a two-dimensional object (such as a map or an image of a printed brain on a shower curtain) and a three-dimensional object (an inflatable globe or a foam model of the brain) related to the topic for that event. Children completed the learning events in small groups, similar to what might occur in an actual classroom.

Two to three days following the second (and final) staged learning event, children were interviewed on their newly acquired knowledge. Each child was asked 10 factual questions that were one year behind the child’s current grade level; e.g., kindergarteners were asked preschool level questions.

Following each question, children were asked additional questions to determine the moment they had learned the answer.

A few main findings emerged from this study: first, most preschoolers were able to recall what and when they learned the answers; second, there was little difference between 4- and 5-year-olds’ performance; and, finally, children were able to accurately remember details of the staged learning events.

However, researchers agree that the more interesting implication is the benefit of encouraging preschool children to reflect on and talk about learning events. Providing children with interactive and stimulating learning environments may help with the acquisition of new knowledge. Using props, pictures, and videos in the classroom will help stimulate children’s imaginations while also helping them retain new information.

StepUp Summary

StepUp combines movement, rhythm, and repetition with curriculum. As children progress through the program levels, they develop fluency in reading decoding, handwriting, and math fact retrieval.  

Watch this video to see StepUp to Learn in action!

Journal reference:

Bemis, Rhyannon H., Michelle D. Leichtman, and David B. Pillemer. 2013. “I Remember When You Taught Me That! Preschool Children’s Memories of Realistic Learning Episodes: Memories of Learning Episodes.” Infant and Child Development (early release).

Photo credit: scratchpost via Flickr CC