Did You Hear Me? (Auditory Memory in Young Children)

Auditory memory, the ability to remember things you hear, is a critical component of learning.  Often, it seems like children aren’t paying attention to what we said, or didn’t hear what we said, but it could also be that they can’t remember what we said.  Auditory memory problems are not uncommon and can be an indicator of future learning challenges.

Auditory memory involves taking in information that is presented orally, processing that information, storing the information in the brain, and recalling the information.   Children who struggle with auditory memory often have difficulties in:

  • Following oral directions
  • Reading
  • Spelling
  • Vocabulary
  • Copying text
  • Taking notes

One common, and simple, measure of auditory memory is digit span (how many digits a child can remember).  The standard for young children (up to 6 years of age) is one digit per year of age.  A 2-year-old should be able to remember 2 digits, a 3-year-old should be able to remember 3 digits, etc.

Because these difficulties are so easy to assess informally, and because the skill is so important to learning, an early childhood program is a great place to start overcoming any challenges in this area.  Besides that, activities to improve auditory memory can be a lot of fun!  Here are a few suggestions:

  • Beading Partners—two children (or one adult and one child) sit back-to-back.  Each one needs several stringing beads and a string.  One person strings some beads, then tells their partner what they strung.  The partner has to reproduce the string without looking at it.  When they are done, they compare strings to see if the child matched his partner’s string.
  • Great Calculations—prepare some cards printed with the number of digits you want a child to practice remembering.  Prepare a few cards with one more digit than your target and a few cards with one less digit.  Have one child draw a card from a basket and read the digits slowly to his partner.  The partner will input the digits on a calculator.  The children will compare the card to the calculator to see if the answer is correct.  
  • Group Memory Games—Go around a circle with each person adding to “I’m going on a trip and I need to pack…”  Each person recites each item that was already mentioned and adds one more item to the list.  For example, “I’m going on a trip and I need to pack a toothbrush.”  The next person might say, “I’m going on a trip and I need to pack a toothbrush and my shoes.” 

Enjoy improving a child’s auditory memory…and perhaps your own in the process!