Remember how your grandfather used to tell those long and boring stories at Thanksgiving dinner when you were a kid? You couldn’t wait for him to stop so you could enjoy the great food! Funny thing is, I bet you remember those stories today, and probably have told them to your kids at your Thanksgiving dinners. This is how stories are passed down from one generation to another. You may have been bored with them at the time, but they stuck!

Why do we remember these crazy old stories? How can some people have more memories than others? What happens within our brain that allows us to form memories? The human memory is a strange and complex mixture of brain cells and neurotransmitters that send signals from one brain cell to another. Our neurons are constantly changing in our brains throughout our lifespan, and scientists are still not certain how some parts of the brain works, including how we form and store our memories.

Neuroscientists and psychologists like to study the development of children because they are trying to find out how we learn and form memories, and how we can encourage and improve memory growth.

The role of parents in child development is extremely important. Parents help to shape the child’s biographical memories by telling stories, reminding them of fun times they had together, or to teach them lessons you want them to learn.

Research has shown that parents are able to shape their child’s memories by verbally recalling memories with their children. Children will even emulate the stories you tell in the same way you do when they retell them to their friends or siblings. The more detail you put in, with vivid details and lots of humor, the more they will remember.

Traditions have been passed down from generation to generation through the telling of stories. Cultures have been preserved due to the passing down of stories from one generation to the next. Often, as in the passing on of any information, it gets a bit embellished (like the story of Santa Claus), but the basic premise of the story remains.

It is worth noting that cultures are preserved through the memories that are passed down. People from Eastern cultures usually remember things more as a group and family context, while those from Western cultures are more self-focused and recall details as part of their own personal memories. Our Native Americans are good examples of how the passing down of stories and memories helped to preserve their culture.

If you want your child to remember or learn something, recall the details with them. You will find that if you ask them what happened at their last birthday they may not remember, but if you ask them if they remember playing that game of “Pin the Tail on the Donkey” and they pinned the tree instead of the donkey, they will remember that, and they may even add things you had left out.

Memories are formed by repetition and activities that leave a good impression. I have a friend who bought a china tea set and she and her granddaughter have “tea parties” every time the little girl comes to visit, complete with hot chocolate, tea cookies, cream and marshmallows. If she forgets one of the “essentials” the little girl calls her on it. They have been doing it since the girl was two, and the now 6-year-old looks forward to this alone and special time with grandma. They are creating memories that will last a lifetime, and possibly a tradition that the young girl will want to repeat with her children and grandchildren.

Make giving a lesson into a fun activity with colorful and humorous details, and lots of action. Create something the child can visualize happening in their head as you put the story together. Let them add ideas of their own, like crouching down when the wolf lingers behind the trees, but keep them within the theme of the story. It would even be a good idea to write the story down so you can go back and repeat them, or make a mini-book for them to read themselves when they are alone. It’s a special memory that you have created together, and they can pass it along to their children.

Children of parents who are great storytellers have more vivid imaginations, and learn how to construct a story and punch lines of their own. Because the details of the story  are put into a fun narrative they are better able to recall details. This is the value of autobiographical storytelling.

This whole idea is taken from the memory technique  where envisioning a story helps to retain memory.



About the author:

Ron White is a two-time U.S.A. Memory Champion and memory training expert. As a memory keynote speaker he travels the world to speak before large groups or small company seminars, demonstrating his memory skills and teaching others how to improve their memory, and how important a good memory is in all phases of your life.



Discovery: How Do Parents Shape A Child’s Memory: