What can your baby remember?

Our child psychologist explains how your little one’s memory develops and what you can do to encourage it


With every cuddle, feed or shake of a rattle, your baby interacts as she gurgles or reaches out for you. But how much of this do you think she is remembering once you’ve gone on to the next activity? Most parents think it would be wonderful if only their baby could recall how much her parents loved her during this special first year – but rest assured, she’s processing and storing it all up daily. It’s memory that lets her recognise your face from all the others she sees. And that little memory starts to grow from birth providing the building blocks for your baby’s learning.


How memory develops

At just a week old, your baby can already remember parts of her daily routine. You’ll notice, for instance, that she becomes very excited when you prepare for her feed. Her legs and arms start to flap about when she remembers that lunch is due at any moment. By three months she can recall specific things she’s done before. Hand her a rattle that she’s played with at some point and she’ll immediately know how to shake it. Another three months on, you may notice that she’s bothered when she drops a toy she’s been holding. That’s because her memory is developed enough to remember the toy exists even though it’s disappeared. By the time she reaches 12 months, she’ll be able to repeat something she did earlier, like waving goodbye when you leave a room if she’s learnt to wave.

Magic moments

The things your baby recalls are associated with her senses, what she experiences through sight, hearing, smell, taste and touch. But she also has an emotional memory, and can store feelings that are very intense and significant to her.

Of course, you might worry that your baby will remember the bad moments as well as the good, like the time you lost your temper in front of her and said a few bad words! But the chances are she’ll quickly forget these incidents if you play them down and don’t make a fuss. There are lots of ways you can help her remember her first year with happiness. Your affectionate gazes let her know you love her. She adores attention from you, and would be happy to spend all her time in your company. The more involvement, the better, as far as she’s concerned. Caring, physical contact between you and your baby is a very basic way of showing your love, so there’s no limit on how many cuddles you can give to help those little grey cells develop good memories.

 Try this…

 At 6 months, she’ll really enjoy playing peek-a-boo. Her memory is good enough for her to remember that your face is still there, even though it’s disappeared behind a makeshift screen. Watch her squeal with delight when you hide your face behind your cupped hands asking, “Where’s Mummy gone?”

Ways to boost your baby’s memory

  • Holding eye contact when you’re singing a song with her makes her more likely to remember it next time.
  • Lively activities keep her attention levels high, which helps her memory skills.
  • Involving different senses by using a toy that makes a noise and has lights will keep her memories varied.
  • Attracting her attention gives her the starting point for focusing before she starts using her memory.
  • A cuddle when she recognises you strengthens her recall.

Did you know…

When your baby’s 1 month old, her memories last on average for two days, but by the time she’s 5 months, she remembers things for up to two weeks.

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