Working Memory

Before I reveal my games, lets define this type of memory:

Working memory (WM) refers to the memory needed to hear something, remember it, and then use it to complete a task.

Example: A child is presented with the question “what is 2 + 2?” To answer it, he or she uses WM to process the question, do the calculation, and then give an answer.

Language abilities are highly dependent on this type of memory.

Working Memory

Memory Techniques To Practice At Home: Stay with me here!

A child can learn memory techniques at home and at a very young age. Let's start good habits early!

Techniques to learn:

  1. Visualization: Make a mental picture of something you hear. Now, you have 2 ways to recall information: a visual image as well as the auditory message.
  2. Rehearsal: This may be the most common technique. To remember something, repeat it over and over and over out loud! 
  3. Chunking: Remembering items in groups is easier than remembering items separately. It is easier to remember a phone number in 2 chunks, 555-2929, instead of 7 separate numbers 5552929.
  4. Visual Reminders:  Visual reminders include post-it-notes, calendars, schedules, alarm clocks, etc...

Memory Games

Working Memory Games

1. Modified Simon Says: A leader says a direction "Simon says touch your toes." Before taking a turn, the other player has to repeat the direction out loud, at least once! This is practicing "rehearsal."

2. Zoo Game: This is great for SOOOO many reasons.  Talk about animals in the zoo while practicing visualization.  What does your animal look like? What does your animal do? What else is there? Make it silly or real. 

3. Visual Reminders: This isn't a game but I had to throw it in there. Make a morning schedule out of pictures. Print pictures for getting dressed, eating breakfast, brushing teeth, playing a game, etc...Your child can "refer" to the chart to "remember" what is next! Have your child help make the schedule in the morning. 

4. Memory!: The simple and fun game of memory works on visualization without even trying. You can even practice saying, out loud, where a picture is located (rehearsal).

They key here is to “over practice” memory techniques with the hope that they will become automatic. So squeeze in lots of practice throughout the day. 

Working Memory & Language Development

Working memory (WM) can greatly affect our language development, for the good or bad. When we hear sentences, our brain has to hold on to the information, process it, and properly store it.

This processing happens at the sound level and at the word level. At the sound level, our brain decodes sounds and then uses that “decoded message” to decide what word we are are hearing. 

At the word level, our brain must hear words, make sense of them, put them together, and then remember them long enough to complete the direction. 

Children with WM difficulties may appear to have attention or behavior issues. Learning memory compensations will help to decrease attention issues and improve language skills. Memory is extremely important for academic success.

Back to Techniques and Games

Can Memory Improve Through Therapy?

This is actually a controversial question. My answer is going to be no! Some people would disagree and a lot of those people are usually selling an expensive computer program promising a cure.

I would save my money if I were you and AVOID them!

Instead, you must compensate, compensate, and compensate some more!

Where To Go Next?

Practice the strategies listed above during daily activities like helping mommy remember the grocery list.

Also, explore some other compensatory strategies such as calendars, alarms, highlights. One thing that technology is AWESOME for is compensating for working memory deficits. 

Bridget is an ASHA certified, practicing speech language pathologist. She is passionate about providing parents with information on child speech and language development as well as provide functional, easy activities to do at home! Parents have the power to make a real difference. Follow Bridget at Facebook and Pinterest for more fun!

Author of  child language development eBook series

› Working Memory


  1. Boudreau and Costanza-Smith. Assessment and Treatment of Working Memory Deficits in School-Age ChildrenLang Speech Hear Serv Sch.2011; 42: 152-166. Retrieved online on 8/3/2013.