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Help Your Child Remember More Vividly

Help your child retain more of their cherished childhood memories

Children develop stronger memories for the events of their lives when they learn to convert those events into meaningful stories.Elaine Reese, a memory researcher at New Zealand's University of Otago, offers these steps for reminiscing to greater effect.

1. Think of an experience that you and your child shared: a trip to the zoo, a birthday party, the arrival of a baby brother or sister. Since you shared it, you can help your child reconstruct it.

2. Try to imagine what the experience was like from a kid's perspective. Kids and adults notice different things. What was meaningful to your child?

3. Help your child to think of the experience as a story. Stories are about experiences and emotions, not just events, and they should crackle with detail.

4. Ask open-ended questions. Where did we go? What did we do? What happened next? How did you feel about that? Why do you think you felt that way? "Questions where there's more than one correct answer invite children to give their own perspective on an event," says Reese.

5. If your child doesn't respond, offer cues. When the child answers, "I don't know, I don't remember," says Reese, "use that as an opportunity to give more information, often through open-ended questions."

6. Be prepared to do most of the storytelling at first. "For a preschooler, it's a very hard cognitive task to say anything about the past," says Reese. By age 5, your child can join in more of the storytelling with little prompting.

7. Keep it fun. There's no need to carve out a formal time to wax nostalgic. Just weave the talks into everyday life. "It works really well in the car, when you're taking a walk, at mealtime," says Reese. "It can be a nice distraction."

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CeReality: 5 Families, 5 Stories, 1 Critical Meal

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