When does long term memory kick-in? (or: Mommy, I love swings!!)

photo of swings for children in Kenilworth Fie...

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They say babies don’t have long-term memory. I just don’t believe that.

The other day I went for a walk with Anya. At a certain point I was walking on a bridge and Anya started almost jumping out of the Ergo (front pack) with enthusiasm, pointing wildly and signalling every way she knew how that something was really exciting her to the left of where I was walking. I looked round. There was a big field, a few people and… some swings. The swings were way in the distance, mind you, in fact I am not even sure they were visible, but I remembered they were there so started wondering if that was what all the fuss was about.

I have never taken her to those swings. She is still too little, I reasoned. I knew Kai had taken her a few times, though, so I kept walking, just in case. When I got near the swings I kind of tested her by keeping walking. Nope, it was definitely the swings she was after. She calmed down when I sat her in it and let her have a good old session on them.

Later I asked Kai about this. Does he take her there often? I mean this is not an area I normally go walking in with Anya, so I guessed she must have been there with him. He said he didn’t remember the last time he had been there and we worked out it was months since they went there.

Curious… so she remembered the location of the swings (something that thrills her) from having been there a couple of times, months earlier. That is just awesome! I had read of something like this in the Baby Signs book. In it the authors Linda Acredolo and Susan Goodwyn tell the story of a little boy who is taken to a street fair that includes a petting zoo and takes a shine to the cute pig there. He spends the rest of the day making the sign for pig and insisting his parents take him back to see the pig, again and again.

Weeks later the parents are going for a walk in town and the kid randomly starts to sign pig. The parents are confused as they look round and see no farm animals of any kind, then they remember, this is the street where they held the street fair and, come to think of it, this is the exact spot where the animals were. He remembered.

So, a few days ago I was walking under this same bridge again. This time the swings were definitely NOT in sight and before we got anywhere where Anya had any chance of seeing them, the excited jumping, pointing and voicing started. Yep, you guessed it, she remembered where we were and was insisting in her little-baby-pre-verbal way that I let her have a go on the swings. How could I resist?
The only issue was prying her away from them, afterwards.

I have since noticed the same effect with supermarket trolleys. She will spot them a mile off and start doing the dance of anticipation. I think for her they are as good as any fairground ride.

So, I am pretty clear, my daughter may only be nine months old but she knows what she likes and remembers exactly where she can get it!

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4 thoughts on “When does long term memory kick-in? (or: Mommy, I love swings!!)

  1. I totally agree, I had simillar experience with both of my kids. they don’t have long-term-memory? that’s baloney!

    • Yeah and isn’t it amazing when you see them do it for the first time. It blew my mind that she knew the swing was there!! Then again she regularly blows my mind just by doing ordinary things like sitting or standing but for the first time!! I love this part of being a mom. :D

    • Why, thank you! You would have loved being here and watching it unfold. Anya now is getting better and better at recognising when we are even in the vicinity of the swings from further and further away!!! Maybe she always did and we just didn’t know that was what she was straining to tell us, we just thought she was being ‘fussy’ and wanting to turn forwards in the carrier. Actually she wanted out of the carrier and into the swings which she knew were there, even though we couldn’t see them yet.

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