Why and How to Develop Visual Memory in Your Child

Practica Blog Post

Why and How to Develop Visual Memory in Your Child

The term “visual memory” refers to a person’s ability to store and recall information that was seen.

It’s an essential school readiness skill because it’s crucial for learning to read fluently, spell correctly and thriving in a classroom situation.

Therapists differentiate between long-term and short-term visual memory.

Working on your child’s long-term visual memory prepares him for learning to read fluently.

Learning, after hours of practice, to recognise a growing number of words at first glance is key to learning to read fluently. But sadly, many children aren’t as good as others with storing and retrieving mental images of words in their long-term memory and therefore they cannot see a word in its written form in their mind’s eye without actually seeing it on paper.

When children don’t learn to recognise words that are frequently used, reading never becomes easier for them, no matter how much they practise.

Being able to see a picture of a word in the mind’s eye is also important for learning to spell correctly.

When a child is unable to store and recall a picture of what a word is supposed to look like in his long-term memory, he ends up with no frame of reference to use as a standard for correct spelling. This is particularly true for words that have sneaky silent letters and devious double letters like “asthma”, “weird” and “accommodate”.

It’s impossible to notice when a word looks “funny” or different when any version seems equally new and unrecognisable to the reader.

Short-term visual memory enables a person to keep the image of something in mind just long enough to use it for doing something else.

Whenever your child uses an instruction card as a guide for building something (as with the Wooden Block Set, Pegboard Set, Shape Set and Multimast Set in the Practica Programme) he is using his short-term visual memory to keep the instruction on the card in mind for short periods. You’ll see him look at the card, then look at his construction to add a block or two, look back at the card, and so forth.

School-aged children, who haven’t had enough opportunity to practise this kind of working memory during the preschool stage find it very hard to copy shapes, letters, words and numbers from a blackboard or book. They typically write excruciatingly slowly and mix up letters within words while copying.

Many get so tired from having to put so much effort into copying what they see, that they often appear “lazy” in their written work.

Game #1: What’s missing?

Place 2 objects on the table, cover them and then remove one while your child isn’t looking. Uncover the remaining object and ask your child to say what’s missing. Increase the number of objects with time.

Practica Parents can use ANIMALS from the Animal Set.

Game #2: What’s different? 

Draw a simple picture, e.g. a head with eyes, a nose and a mouth. Ask your child to study it and look away so that you can change something. You may, for instance, add a neck or erase eyelashes if you’ve drawn them in the first place. He then needs to say what’s different.

Practica Parents can use the BLACKBOARD and CHALK.

Game #3: Can you fix it? 

Put the lids on two of the plastic containers that you have in the kitchen to use as construction pieces. Build a simple structure and use your cell phone to take a picture of it.

Practica Parents can use BLOCKS from the Wooden Block Set or Construction Set.

Ask your child to have a good look at what you’ve built. Move one block to change the structure and ask your little one to change it back to looking the way that he remembers it. Use the picture that you’ve saved on your phone to check his answer. Again, increase the number of blocks with time.

Game #4: Can you copy it? 

If you’re a Practica Parent, choose an INSTRUCTION CARD from the Shape Set that is well within your child’s ability. Ask him to use the SHAPES that are included in the Shape Set to copy the image that is printed on the card. Instead of asking your child to lay the shapes down on the card, you can develop his short-term visual memory by expecting of him to arrange them on the table next to the card.

For 5 and 6-year-olds, you can put the card up on the wall and ask the child to reproduce the image as if he’s copying from a blackboard.

Now, ask him to copy what’s printed on the card by laying the shapes down in their correct positions next to the card, on the table. This is a fun way to boost your child’s ability to store and retrieve what he sees in his short-term memory. 

Again, up the ante for 5 and 6-year-olds by putting the card up on the wall and asking your child to reproduce the image as if he’s copying from a blackboard.

An Important Tip!

Many toddlers and 2-year olds are so interested in touching and handling anything new (blocks, shapes, animals, etc.) that it may be very difficult to get them to play games with objects that are unfamiliar to them. 

The reason for this is that they were born with an exceptionally “sensing” temperament. As a result, they instinctively want to touch and explore the physical qualities of EVERYTHING they see, even when they are supposed to be using whatever they’re grabbing in a prescribed way to play a game. They’re simply wired to touch things!

It takes more practice for them to learn to keep their hands to themselves and rather focus on following the rules of a game.

This is a natural, but it’s nonetheless very important for them to learn this skill as early as possible, or else they may miss out on many important learning opportunities.

You can help your “sensing” child with a game of touch and find.

Simply place any new objects that you’re planning to use as part of a game in a bag along with 2 or 3 objects of roughly the same size that are very familiar to him. Then ask him to use his hand (sense of touch) to search for different objects.

This game satisfies a child’s need for tactile exploration by familiarizing him with new objects in a hands-on way. 

The goal is to make it easier for him to focus his attention on what he is supposed to DO with objects, instead of simply handling them for the sake of exploring their physical qualities.

Until next time!

Lizette van Huyssteen