Memory is memory training, concentration and nostalgia

Memory is a game that children can play from an early age. And they’re so good at it!

Why is that? Games maker Ravensburger once had this figured out: in young children, the brain cells, with 200 trillion synapses, are twice as well represented as those of adults. In the brain, synapses provide communication between brain cells. More synapses means more communication in the brain and therefore knowing quickly and precisely where that one card is to make a set.

Such success makes memory a favourite game for young children, which in turn generates a huge supply: Miffy, Frozen, wild animals, Cars, The Efteling, professions, Disney… Think of it and you can make a memory out of it.

Think of it? You just have to come up with it!

A game with such a simple mechanism, it must have been around since ancient times!

Well no, the first Memory game was presented by Ravensburger in 1959.

It was invented a few years earlier by Swiss Heinrich Hurter, who cut out pictures and crafted cards for his grandchildren. The game was played so often in his grandchildren’s family that friends encouraged him to take it to a publisher. And so it happened…

By the way, I don’t know whether ‘memory’ is copyrighted. I always use it myself as a term for this kind of game, but I very often see the terms memo and memory game as well.

Anyway, courtesy of Heinrich Hurter, you are now being canned by a group of preschoolers at a game of Disney memory  😁

Vary on a theme

In classic memory, you put all cards face down, first turn over a card and then turn over a second card. If both cards show exactly the same picture, you have a memory. And then you can do it again…. at least, those were the rules at home.

For toddlers

Memory games often state that they are for children aged 3 and older. If you want to play it with younger children, you can choose a slightly easier variant. For instance, by placing the cards open instead of closed. Or (and) you don’t put all the cards in the game, but choose a number of sets (e.g. 10 cards, 5 sets of 2) (source).

For seniors

Jumping from the youngest generation to the oldest, the seniors. For this group, memory is a great game for memory training. But of course no Miffy or Cars. Especially for this group, Dutch company Spelplus makes sturdy wooden memory games with themes such as ‘How it used to be’ or ‘What belongs together’. Not only the game is nostalgic, so are the themes.

The memory palace

If you have 200 trillion synapses as a child, from puberty onwards this starts to decrease a lot. Not because you then become dumber, but because your synapses start working more and more efficiently  and no longer need all the contacts. The connections between nerve cells that are no longer used are phased out. And so you have a nice, efficient network in your head.

A network that could use some support from time to time, by the way. For instance, putting the game cards in neat rows, so that you have a route to find the right card again.

Creating a route is a clever tool for storing information in your memory. One of the tricks that adolescents in particular can apply when they need to remember more and more information for work and study.

For real block work, there are tips that you can also apply to memory or, on the contrary, derive from memory. I found some of them on the website mnemonic devices and making routes. Link new information to something you already know or make a story out of the information you get.

Memory as a method

Of course, there are memory games with themes that tie in with subjects such as The Seasons, Stuff in and around the house, etc. But you can also adapt memory to maths and language, for instance. On this website, for a small price, you can find downloadable memory games for tables 1 to 10, to practise word types and to link feelings and emotions.

You can also use the mechanics of memory to guide conversations. For the project Gezinsbenadering (Family Approach Project), Hanzehogeschool Groningen made a memory game to stimulate interaction between children and fathers in detention: taking turns, parent and child turn over two cards. If you have a set of the same cards, you may ask the question on the card to the other. A nice and playful way to interact.

Finding a match requires concentration and deliberation

My personal favourite are memory games where you don’t have to look for the same pictures, but have to find a match together. Like the beautifully illustrated memory Match A Leaf where you have a card with a leaf and have to turn over the card with the right tree. Great Women is a fun one where you find famous women and their professions together. Honestly, not very difficult as the coloured background provides extra help. Then Old and New where old-fashioned and modern versions of utensils form a set together. Sometimes difficult to recognise the older object.

Right at the top is Kunst Aufräumen which also contains a huge amount of humour. I bought this game in a museum where there was an exhibition by artist Ursus Wehrli. If you know this artist: he cleans up everything. In a car park, all the red cars are lined up next to each other, next to them neatly all the blue cars etc. But he also does this with flower arrangements, with scales, with football teams. Some tidied-up objects are still quite difficult to recognise.

Tracking requires concentration

A memory where you have to find a combination is definitely suitable for adults, as far as I am concerned. Especially if you let them solve it in teams: they talk about how and why certain cards belong together. Moreover, memory makes all participants nostalgic and you don’t have to explain any of the rules of the game.

My tip: after a break in your training, make sure there are about 10 cards (note that they are sets) turned over for each group. You will see that the exuberant atmosphere of coffee turns into a concentrated silence in which the occasional whisper is still discussed.

You can use the memory cards I mentioned earlier for this, but you can also make your own game by using your own photos to make a specific memory. You can do this at various shops, for example at Ravensburger and Hema.

You will find affiliate links in this text. When you purchase one of the games (or anything else) through these links, you support the website and the work ofPen & Pion. 🧩🎲🧠

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