Whether young or old, our brains can sometimes have trouble retaining certain information. As we celebrate this year's President's Day on February 15, consider the long list of U.S. Presidents as a challenge—although George Washington and Abraham Lincoln are easily remembered, what about naming the other 42 presidents in chronological order?
Fortunately, there are a couple of tricks to give your child's memory a little extra oomph. While it's easy to do a Google search to find out that Theodore Roosevelt was the 26th president, there’s immense value in having your children know it for themselves. Why? Because it exercises the brain, teaching it how to better remember, recall, and recite bigger chunks of factual information.
Here are a few popular methods to try with your kids to help them memorize information in no time:
In 1956, a psychologist named George A. Miller came up with a theory—our brains can't handle memorizing things in amounts bigger than seven to nine items. So, in order to remember a long list of names, it's better to instead break them down into chunks. Have your child begin by memorizing a list of the first eight presidents. Ask them to repeat the list in their heads, or have them write it down on a piece of paper a few times. Once they can write the entire list easily by memory, move on to the next eight presidents.
No matter how much we try to resist it, songs always have a way of getting stuck in our heads. Before you know it, you're humming an infectious melody over and over again. This same method can be used for memorizing important information. Find an existing song that your child already enjoys; then, create your own rendition by ordering the presidents based around a melody, by singing a mnemonic device, or by even singing phrases with the presidents' names inserted.
This is probably one of the more popular methods to memorize information. Mnemonic devices allow you to create a phrase, sentence, or even a word made up of parts of the presidents’ names. Do this by first grouping presidents into small groups (similar to “chunking” information). Then, take the first letter of their last name and create a fun phrase that your kids can easily recall. For example, “Wally's Alligators Just Made Matt And Julie Vanish” for George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe, John Quincy Adams, Andrew Jackson, and Martin Van Buren.
Make a bulletin board containing pictures of each president, along with separate, removable flashcards containing a unique fact and their first and last names mounted under each photo. After reviewing the names with the faces several times, remove the flashcards and mix them up. Then, see how many names your child can correctly match to the right president (it may be helpful to break these up into chunks, too).