What are your experiences with teaching kids basic techniques like the memory palace?
My daughter (4,5yo) has seen me doing some speed card training and number memorization, and her being curious, she wanted to try too. So I went and taught her some basics. I decided to try and see if she would get the concept of a Memory Palace, and it seems like she did get it quite good. She loves to play with lego, and she made a lego city which is her most prized lego work, she even knows that place so detailed that if I would switch two things around, she notices. That lego city became her memory palace. Walking throught the memory palace became pretending to pretending to have her own lego figure walk through the lego city. We gave it 15 loci, 12 buildings, 1 park, 1 river and 1 forest, all things that were present in her lego city already, and thus in her mind.
We first started with grocery lists, I told her about five of the things we had to get, and she had to put those in her memory palace. Always one vegetable/fruit, something she liked to eat on bread, a drink, a pack of cookies, and a random item (pasta, pizza, chicken, anything). Different things every time. It was all in the order of our path through the supermarket, so all she had to remember was what the next thing was. Whenever we were in a part of the supermarket where something she had to remember was being sold, I asked her what we had to get. Whenever she remembered four of the five correct, she could pick some candy from the store as well. Later on this became 6 items, 7 items, etc. Right now she gets 10 things to remember, and usually she remembers around 7-8, occasionally 9 or 10. Her memory palace has 15 loci, and having 5 unused actually encourages her to keep trying until she gets more items to remember. I can imagine some kids might get frustrated, but she just kept on trying to do better as she liked the “game”. She is a bit disappointed when she doesn’t remember the 8 she has to remember for some candies, but she just keeps on trying.
About two weeks ago she told me she wanted to remember numbers too, “like mommy”. She was a little bit annoyed by numbers not sticking in her mind. Every time she tried to remember numbers instead of a grocery list, she forgot almost all, so she wanted to know why. That is when we started making a little system for her. I explained her how every number is not put in the memory palace as a number, but as a figure. She has quite some stuffed animals (“stuffies”), and she wanted those to become her figures. So over the course of a few days, we have been making her a system for 0 to 9, with her stuffed animals as the “persons” in her system. Every stuffed animal has a personality, her turtle is always really slow, her cat loves to cuddle, the bunny is very energetic and hops around, etc. Every day (except for friday, when we do the grocery list), she makes a random 10-digit number, using every number from 0 to 9 once. She memorizes by letting her stuffed animals do a job in the city, the personality of the stuffed animal helps her to recall it. So she ends up with a city in which the turtle is the mayor, and he is sitting at the mayor’s desk doing his job veeery slowly. Next to that is the elephant working in the school and he is just making a mess, as he is very fat and he can’t fit in between everything, so tables and chairs everywhere. Next she might have her bird flying around singing in the park. That way she fills her loci. Every day a new animal is the mayor, a new one works in the store, etc. and she loves doing that.
4 years is quite young for kids in general to start with it I think, I’d say 5-6 years would be great for the things me and my daughter do. Though every kid is different, some kids develop memory and cognitive skills faster, others learn other things faster. My daughter wanted to try, so I decided to just give it a shot, and she picked it up quite well. I do explain everything simple of course, She would have no clue what a ‘locus’ is, instead we call them simply ‘places’. I’m also encouraging her to try and do better, but not pushing her in any way. Like if she’d have only 7 items of the grocery list two weeks in a row, and she seems to get 7 again the third week, I would use a subtle trigger to get her to remember the 8th one, just so she can get her candy and a confidence boost with it. I also won’t tell her that it is time to practice, I let her decide for herself, to keep her motivated.