Improve Working Memory in Children

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Last Update Date: 30 April 2021

Have you ever given your child a few tasks to complete only to realize at the end that they mixed them all up or completed only a few?

We can imagine how frustrating it can be; however, if situations like this occur often, it may be because of a memory deficit your child is experiencing within their working memory also known as immediate/primary/provisional memory).

But, how can you tell whether your child has insufficient memory skills or simply is not listening to you? To understand, we have prepared an article that not only covers what provisional memory is from A-Z but also offers working memory activities for kids that you can use to improve your child’s working memory skills.

working memory problems child

What Is Working Memory?

Provisional memory is a mental skill that has a limited capacity and can hold information for a very short period of time (a few seconds). Provisional memory is important for:

  • Reasoning
  • Decision-making
  • Behavior
  • Navigation
  • Comprehending new information
  • Completing tasks

Provisional memory is often mentioned as short-term memory; however, short-term memory can only hold information, whereas working memory can both retain and manipulate it.

As poor provisional memory skills affect 15% of children, studies have shown that regular mental exercises have a great impact on improving it 3-4 times more.

MentalUP offers the best working memory improving exercises that advance according to your children’s skills. With only 10 minutes of daily MentalUP exercises, your children will have a much more enhanced working memory skill which will directly affect their learning ability and academic success.

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Working Memory Examples

Here are a few working memory examples from our daily lives so you can get a better idea of what it is.

child with working memory problems

Imagine that you’re hosting a dinner for your friends and family and you ask your child for help. The tasks you give are actually quite simple:

  1. Put his/her toys in his/her room,
  2. Move everyone’s shoes to the closet,
  3. Set the table.

Your child agrees, but when you check on it, later on, the table isn’t ready, the shoes are still in the hallway and all the toys are … in the closet. That can’t be right 😐

Primary memory is very similar to attention, and not being able to “stay on track” may be a sign of a child with poor working memory rather than a lack of attention.

In addition,

  • remembering a phone number,
  • recalling directions,
  • remembering how to use grammar and sentence structure,
  • writing an essay,
  • calculating in our heads

are all mental tasks that use primary memory. In other words, it is the ability to keep in mind anything you need to complete a certain task.

Working memory

As long-term memory is maintained even when we’re not thinking of it or using it, primary memory is an active process where we hold and process all the information we need to access at any given time.

Therefore, two activities that both use the same working memory area sometimes come into conflict because our brain directs attention and gives priority to only one of these activities.

That is why driving a car and talking on the phone at the same time is illegal in many countries because the mind can only concentrate on one of those tasks.

Child Working Memory Problems

Naturally, children have a smaller primary memory capacity than adults, but what causes it to be smaller than usual and what are the ways to improve it? Read on to find out.

What Causes Poor Working Memory in Children?

Although it is usual for children to have less advanced primary memory skills, children with some special conditions may be less fortunate (e.g. the working memory in children with reading disabilities is poorly functioning). But first, let’s look into the signs of a poorly functioning immediate memory:

  • They do not function well during group activities in the classroom,
  • They may fail to answer direct questions,
  • They find it difficult to follow simple instructions,
  • They lose track during complicated tasks, and may find letting go of it easier,
  • They make place-keeping errors (skipping or repeating steps),
  • They appear to be easily distracted or inattentive,
  • They demonstrate difficulties with math calculations in their head,
  • They have poor organization skills,
  • They have trouble with activities that require both storage (remembering) and processing (manipulating information).

In addition, children with ADHD and Dyslexia or any other kind of SLD (Special Learning Disorder) are more likely to suffer from an immediate memory deficit.

MentalUP offers the best games and activities to enhance your child’s immediate memory skills while they are having fun!

Start benefiting from the most entertaining and educational scientific platform today.

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Can Working Memory Be Improved in Children?

Yes, research has shown that children’s immediate memory skills can be improved over time with proper actions.

How to Improve a Child's Working Memory

Here are some useful tips on helping a child with poor working memory.

1. Benefit From MentalUP Exercises

MentalUP is a revolutionary educational app, created by a team of academician, designed to help children to foster their memory skills. Here are some of the working memory examples from MentalUP’s best working memory exercises for kids:

Flying Cards

Flying Cards

This working memory exercise for kids improve short-term memory, visual attention, and naming skills.

Find the Squares

Find the Squares

This working memory example improves spatial memory and short-term memory skills.



This fun working memory exercise improves visual memory, aural memory, and decision-making skills.

Seen Many Times

Seen Many Times

This working memory game improves short-term memory, sustained attention, and visual attention skills.

2. Break Tasks Into Simple Steps

Give short, simple instructions and make sure the child has finished the first step before progressing to the next. Repeat instructions if necessary.

3. Keep it Simple

Use clear, specific language when making requests and, if necessary, show them what you want them to do.

4. Use Visuals and Gestures

Use visuals to help the child remember the steps involved in a task (e.g. morning routine). Also, encourage them to visualize what they are hearing.

5. Reduce Background Noise and Distractions

Reduce distractions to lessen the amount of information the child has to process.

6. Engage Other Senses

Use all 5 senses to allow information to “stick” (e.g. have your child type math times tables in different fonts, sing them, listen to others say them, trace them in the sand, etc.).

MentalUP offers many brain training, letter recognition games, and memory exercises that improve children's cognitive skills and also give them a fun gaming experience!

Only 15 minutes of training a day can make problems disappear Join the worldwide most loved educational app and community of over 10+ million families. 👨‍👩‍👧 🌎

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