As adults, we are constantly relying on our memory. Even when we “can’t put our finger on it”, we know it was once there so we try to “find it”. We can remember many of our life moments and experiences. We can’t remember infancy and we can’t remember how we learner to remember. Therefore, it is interesting to examine memory in early childhood, how it develops and how toddlers learn.
Brain development plays a big role in toddler’s memory. Around 2 ½ to 3 years, children’s sustained attention improves a lot because of brain development, specifically growth in the frontal lobes and cerebral cortex. Children also improve their planning abilities. They are able to think out a sequence of acts in advance and allocate the proper amount of attention in accordance with each goal.
Around this age, children gain the capacity to generate play goals. This is supported by their caregivers using the scaffolding technique. The scaffolding technique begins when adults support children in an activity and lead them through how it’s done. As the child improves, the adult backs off from their support and allows the child to do the activity without help.
Young children’s recognition memory is remarkably accurate. They recognize their mother’s face and the sight of their bottle. But they have less effective memory strategies so they can’t recall list-like information as well as older children. Memory strategies develop with age and are deliberate activities that improve our chances of remembering.
The second type of memory that is well developed during early childhood is episodic memory. Children can remember recurring events as scripts which become more elaborate with age. Thus as children develop during early childhood, their memory for familiar events and unique events (autobiographical memory) improves. They are prompted by elaborative or repetitive styles. As cognitive and conversational skills improve, children’s autobiographical memories become better organized, detailed and related to the larger context of their lives. This occurs more often when their caregivers use an elaborate style to talk about the past.
Overall, memory is an important key to children’s cognitive development. It improves their cognitive abilities, such as planning, attention and problem-solving. Memory also helps children’s ability to master different skills. Early childhood is an important time for memory development because there are significant brain developments and children begin to interact with their environment more.