Why is it that we struggle to remember events from before we were 3 or 4 years old? Canadian researchers found that 4- to 6-year-olds remembered events from age 2 or younger as their “earliest memories,” but two years later had largely forgotten them and named a different memory as their earliest. Kids over 10, on the other hand, mentioned the same earliest memories at both the start and end of the study. That suggests those memories “are crystallized” by age 10, says an expert. But despite more than a century of study, scientists still aren’t sure why we can’t recall earlier moments.
Some say it’s because we need language to cement memories; others say younger kids lack the sense of self required to formulate long-term memories. The way adults talk to kids about their memories may also have a lot to do with it: parents can reinforce memories of a child’s actions by discussing those actions and experiences extensively. Calling up memories repeatedly can strengthen neural traces, which are weak in young kids. For more, including tips on building up your own memories, head to the Wall Street Journal. (Read more memory stories.)