The eight types of memory and seven ideas to enhance it in children

Memory is a cognitive ability that encompasses a set of brain structures and processes. They are what allow children and adults to process information, store it in our minds and create memories.

Thanks to memory, children have an identity, they learn and know who they are and who the people around them are.

Thus, broadly speaking, memory serves to:

  • Set, save and retrieve multiple information.
  • Recognize different types of events such as family, past events, names…
  • Maintain information in the time necessary to be used.

But, what types of memory exist and how to enhance memory in the little ones? We talked about all of it.

memory types

We find different types of memory, each with a different function.

Morgado classifies these types of memory in an article published in 2005 in the Journal of Neurology , entitled “Psychobiology of learning and memory: foundations and recent advances”. Check out more interesting article on out parenting site.

Let’s get to know these types of memory and how they work in children:

1) Sensory memory

Sensory memory is one that comes to us through the senses . It is a very brief memory, which lasts between 200 and 300 milliseconds, and which disappears immediately or is transmitted to short-term memory, another type of memory.

The information that we store through it remains for the time necessary for it to be treated selectively and identified in order to be able to process it later.

Its function has to do with “the here and now “ , with everything that happens in the present moment and to what you have to react in real time. The information that children store through it can be visual, auditory, olfactory, tactile, etc.

2) Short-term memory

The next type of memory is short-term memory, which operates when certain information has been selected and attended to in sensory memory.

This information goes into short-term memory. Its capacity is limited (we can store between five and nine elements or stimuli through it).

It has two functions:

  • Hold the information in mind when the information is not present.
  • Manipulate that information allowing to intervene in other superior cognitive processes (it is what is known as working memory ).

3) Long-term memory

Long-term memory is what allows children to store information in a lasting way. This can be of two types:

  • 3.1) Implicit long-term memory

Implicit memory is stored unconsciously. It is involved in learning various skills and is activated automatically . An example of an action that children perform through it is learning to ride a bicycle .

  • 3.2) Explicit long-term memory

Explicit memory is associated with consciousness or, at least, with conscious perception.

It allows children to know places, things, people and everything that this means. In turn, this is divided into:

  • Semantic memory : the information that children accumulate throughout their lives , in relation to historical events, the names of people or capitals, etc. It is necessary to use the language .
  • Episodic memory : it is the memory that allows children to have memories of their lives (it is autobiographical memory, for example, remembering what their first day of school was like) .

4) Retrograde memory

Beyond the types of memory that Morgado raises, we also find retrograde and anterograde memory.

In the case of retrograde, we are talking about the one that allows us to evoke past memories (especially distant memories ).

5) Anterograde memory

In contrast, anterograde memory is what allows children to learn and create new memories (that is, it goes “back to front”).

How to enhance the different types of memory in children

We give you some ideas to promote the different types of memory in childhood:

listen and tell stories

The activity of reading and telling stories, a good habit before going to sleep, is a good way to help children develop their memory.

We can try reading a story to them and then asking them to explain the most relevant facts of it . They can even do a written summary.

Taking advantage of this activity, they can also try to invent different endings for the same story, which encourages their imagination .

Cards to promote memory

Cognitive stimulation cards are also a good resource to stimulate memory in children.

We leave you a couple of examples of cards that can be useful, to work memory but also attention.

Create a Memory

We can create a ” homemade ” memory with our child, cutting out different squares, circles or rectangles from cardboard , and drawing something on each of them (an object, a landscape, whatever you want).

We will do the drawings in pairs to create the memory , which can also be bought (there is a wide variety on the market, for different ages, with different themes, number of chips/pieces, etc.).

Does the game work? Go uncovering the tiles two by two and in turns to make pairs; if you don’t match, you turn them over again, memorizing which drawing or image is in each place.


The classic game of simón is also useful, specifically to work immediate and short-term memory , as well as being fun and entertaining.

Normally it is a device with four colored lights (green, red, yellow and green), which are activated and whose sequence we must memorize and repeat. If you make a mistake, you lose the turn!

What did we do yesterday?

Through this activity, children are asked to recount or write down everything they did the day before .

To increase the difficulty of the activity a little, they can also be asked to write down the facts in chronological order.

Identify the missing object and/or the order

We can do this activity in different ways; for example, placing a series of toys on the sofa , and asking the child to memorize them for a few seconds.

After the child leaves, we change the objects in order (or remove some), and ask him to identify which ones are no longer there and which ones have changed places.

chained words

This game is ideal for improving verbal memory , information retrieval and processing speed. Ideally it should be done in a group, with a minimum of three children.

The first child must say a word , and the next child must find a word that begins with the same syllable as the last quoted word. For example:

  • Mesa
  • Healthy
  • Rule
  • Mano

To add a bit of difficulty, we can put the following rule; Words that have already been said cannot be repeated . Let’s have fun !