While smaller children are only just starting to learn their ABCs and 123s, older siblings may be starting new grade levels in school and struggling to learn new material.

Instead of letting them lose their enthusiastic edge on the new school year, try introducing them to an old but newly recognized approach to learning.

Look to your littler ones for the first clue to this technique. Not yet knowing how to spell, or maybe even how to draw their letters, their first attempts at written communication usually involve some kind of glyphic statement. They might show a random four-legged creature and a ball and a tree to tell the story about a boy playing with his dog, all done in images.

That first instinct to draw images of what we see is the key to helping older children struggling to remember information in their classes. Our brains are hard-wired to focus on pictures and that wiring can be put to deliberate use by children trying to remember their lessons.

What some scientists in Waterloo discovered in a recent study is that when we are actively engaged in trying to draw a picture of the idea we are trying to remember – a word, a sequence, etc – we have a much greater chance of remembering it. In the study, one group of people were asked to remember a list of words by writing the lists over and over again a specified number of times. Another group was asked to remember the same list of words by drawing pictures of them or an idea associated with them. They discovered people who drew pictures scored much better than people who wrote the words multiple times, doodled or shaded the words, or wrote lengthy descriptions of each word.

Next time your school-age child is having difficulty remembering facts or figures from their homework assignments, try having them draw pictures of the ideas they’re trying to remember instead of painful memorization exercises and see how they do. It could be a win for your child in learning the material and achieving higher scores and a win for you as you find ways to make learning more enjoyable and homework time less of a chore.

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