Most adults suffer from what Nolte refers to as "infant amnesia", meaning we don't usually remember much before age 3 or 4. Scientists don't know why you can't remember much from your early years. But, even though adults don't remember infancy, infants themselves can remember things. "They recognize their mother's scent. In a couple of weeks, they can remember their father's face. A lot of it depends on how much they see of those faces," says Nolte.
Within a few weeks, that memory grows from simple recognition to how to perform tasks, like kicking a mobile or shaking a rattle to make noise. Memories grow with time. "By the time they're 18 months," says Nolte, "they can remember something from 13 months ago."
There are ways to boost a child's memory, and often times, the same methods that work for adults work for infants as well. "If you want to try to remember something, you study it, you repeat it," says Nolte. By doing the same with your baby - for example, repeating the word "Mom" over and over - you are sharpening their memory.
Reading and talking to your child are very important as well. The more they hear language being spoken, the more they'll remember it later on. Avoid baby talk, and for older children, "Talk in a narrative," says Nolte. "Don't just say, 'What did you do today?'" Ask for specifics like what your child ate for lunch or what they did at recess. This will force the child to remember what happened throughout their day, and in turn, strengthen their memory.
Language and memory go hand-in-hand. "They've done tests with different cultures; Cultures that put a lot of stock in family traditions and memories... and talked to their children about them. They have a better memory than children who don't have those kinds of family traditions," says Nolte.
Games are another great way to mentally stimulate your child. "Peek-a-boo... one of the earliest games, is supposed to be a mind sharpener," says Nolte. "It gets the child thinking."
For more information on child memory and other parenting advice, click here.
By Erin Petrun