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3 Tips to Improve Motor Memory

Do you ever find that a child may learn a new motor skill (i.e. skipping) only to forget it rather quickly?  Or perhaps you teach a child a new skill and he/she remembers how to execute it for a long time (i.e. bike riding)?  There are many reasons why the body has better muscle memory for certain motor plans.  Here are 3 tips to help children retain motor skills over time:

1.  Practice, practice, practice.  The key factor in remembering a motor plan is to practice.  When a child learns to ride a bicycle, he/she practices hundreds perhaps thousands of revolutions in one bike riding session.  When a child practices a skill like skipping, he/she may only try it for 10-20 steps.  Therefore, the main ingredient to motor memory is practice! 

2.  Vary the environment.  It may be easy to skip in an isolated room with no distractions, but add in a crowded, loud gym and skipping may not be so easy anymore.  It is crucial to practice the skill in the real environment where you need to use the skill.  When you are able to complete a motor skill or carry out a motor plan in all environments you are more likely to retain that skill over time. 

3.  Space out practicing different but similar skills.  Perhaps you are working on galloping and the child is just mastering it.  Don’t switch immediately to practicing skipping.  Space out the practice sessions between these two skills to allow the first skill to be retained.  Maybe a child is practicing proper spacing between each letter as he/she writes.  Don’t immediately move to teaching a child proper spacing between words.  Since the spacing is a little different the child may have difficulty retaining the first skill of proper spacing between letters. 

Do you have any other tips to add to the list to help improve muscle memory?  Would love to hear your suggestions in the comments section.