Stoke your Memory Fire!

Memory catches fire early and burns down late! Most youth develop their memory quite early. It is
what prepares them to learn to read, know math combinations, and remember words for spelling. Our
early years in education count on these skills.

Memory tends to stay with us as a gentle fire during the majority of our lives until we experience “senior
status”. Any time between Social Security and whatever comes next, we may find that our memory fire
has cooled considerably. Sometimes it is looking for the keys or phone ( it was way easier when the
darn thing had a cord and it was attached to the wall!) or recalling what it was we want from the
refrigerator (while we stand there catching a chill!)

Fortunately, we can stoke our memory fires at any age. Research during the past fifteen years has
labeled our ability to develop, improve, and secure memory and other brain skills – neuroplasticity. No,
we are not replacing our brain cells with plastic nerves. We are actually able to increase the complexity
of brain cells (that’s a good thing) by nourishing them with exercises. So, if you would like to light up
your brain cells here are a few activities that are effective.

1. Drink plenty of water. 

This is true at all ages. Our brain is about 80 % water. Water supports every
chemical reaction in our brains (it supports passing the messages between cells), it carries oxygen to the
brain, and it increases our speed of processing. Have a glass of water first thing in the morning before
you enjoy your coffee and you will start the day with good energy.

2. Build your visual memory. 

All ages can play tic/tac/toe with an imaginary grid. Decide who are the
X’s/O’s ( or dogs/cats or whatever, be creative!) Then draw a tic/tac/toe grid in the air so both players
have an idea of where the image is located. Now, the tricky part is communicating to your partner
where you are placing your X…I am putting my X in the top right-hand box. Use a finger to draw it in the
air. Your partner may say, I am putting my O in the bottom right hand box and use a finger to draw it
there. The trick here is you both have to remember where you have placed your symbols and keep in
mind the open places to choose to make you the Winner! (As you can imagine, you can play this game
over the computer, phone, in the car on a trip or whenever – keep your visual memory active!)

3. Light up your listening memory. 

This task requires remembering a sentence and embellishing it by
adding your own imagery. Give your partner a sentence (or read a line in a story for yourself). The golf
ball rolled across the table toward the glass of lemonade, when the cat swatted at it. Yikes, what do you
see happening? Describe what started the ball to move. What did the cat look like? How fast was the
ball moving? Describe what is going to happen. Embellish the image as much as you wish to create a
fun, action, image. A great action memory stimulus task!
It’s never too late to keep your memory fire burning bright!


Dr. Joan M. Smith, CA Licensed Educational Psychologist