How many times have you yelled, “Didn’t I just tell you not to walk in here with those dirty shoes!” when your toddler seemingly ignored your request and went straight for his favorite toy in the corner while tracking dirt across your clean floor. Your child’s frequent memory lapses are exasperating, and, while severe deficits in this area can be a sign of a more serious condition like attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, most of the time, it’s just plain old “being a kid” syndrome.
Absent-Minded Professor Syndrome
So you think you have a little absent-minded professor on your hands. The “absent-minded professor syndrome,” as mentioned in “What to Expect: The Toddler Years,” is based on a movie character; the absent-minded professor is a brilliant scientist who can rattle off mathematical details but can’t remember the date. When your toddler or preschooler’s mind is so full of the things that are important to him, he can’t be bothered to focus on your stuff. So when you ask him about what things he did in preschool that day and he is making a bee-line for the cookies and milk you set out for him, don’t get frustrated when he can’t recall the details of his preschool adventures.
The cause of “absent-minded professor syndrome” is the likelihood that a toddler or preschooler’s memory is not quite up to snuff. Give your child’s brain a workout by playing memory games. Purchase a memory card game with your toddler’s favorite cartoon characters or play a memory game with objects you already have. Take a few pictures and show them to your child. Place them face down and ask your child to recall who or what was in each picture. Flip over the picture to see if he was right.
Toddlers and preschoolers simply don’t have as much practice as you telling stories of the events of your day. Since your child’s language skills grow daily, have conversations to practice recall. After a trip to the zoo, ask your child what animals he saw or anything special you did. If your child can’t seem to remember anything, prompt him with detailed questions like, “Did you feed the ducks?” or “What animal did we see with a beak?” When you eat dinner as a family, tell stories about what you did that day.
A toddler is not much different than a teenager when you try to extract information from him. If you ask a boring question like, “What did you do today?” the chance of getting a response like “I dunno” is inevitable. Instead, ask questions like, “Did you draw on the chalkboard at preschool today?” or “What did you build with blocks?”
As a parent, it’s essential to have a bag of tricks you can whip out at a moment’s notice -- it’s also what makes you seem superhuman to your toddler or preschooler. Consider giving directions with a repeated phrase, as repetition aids memory. For example, when you hand him a crayon to color, say a phrase like “You get what you get and don’t get upset.” The rhyme is memorable and teaches your toddler not to throw a tantrum because you handed him the red crayon when he obviously wanted the blue. Have a song for clean-up time so he doesn’t get distracted by the toys he sees but remembers he is supposed to clean them up. HelpGuide.org also suggests laughter as medicine for a forgetful brain -- laughter stimulates multiple areas of your brain, so don’t forget to laugh with your toddler or preschooler by telling jokes, getting into tickle fights or reading a funny book.