How Can “Muscle Memory” Help My Child With Studying?

By Keri Wilmot

Expert reviewed by Nelson Dorta, PhD


My son often has a tough time remembering what he studies for tests. His teacher suggested it might help if he tries to tap into his “muscle memory.” What is that? And how can my son use it?


Tapping into “muscle memory” can be a great strategy for studying. That’s especially true for kids with learning and thinking differences.

Kids all have different learning strengths. Some may take in information better by seeing, some by hearing, and some through physical activity.

That’s why multisensory teaching methods can be so effective. By getting information through different senses, kids can use their strengths to learn. And they gain “muscle memory” as they do.

Your child can tap into that muscle memory when he studies. The way to do that is to use the same techniques for studying that he used in class for learning.

Let’s say he learned the location of the states by pointing to them on a map and reciting them. Or maybe he learned by tracing them on the map with his fingers. He might study for the test by doing these same things at home.

If your child hasn’t had multisensory instruction, don’t worry. He can still build muscle memory and use it to study. Just knowing his learning strengths can help you find strategies he can use to take in and remember information.

If he’s a visual learner, he might like to look at pictures to study or to highlight words in his notes. If he learns best through hearing he might want to sing or read his notes out load. Or make up silly stories to remember sequences.

If he’s learning addition and subtraction, he might create a number line out of chalk on the driveway, then hop from one number to the next. Studying for spelling tests could be more fun if you hold up a flashcard of the word. Encourage him to say the word aloud, then bounce a ball one time for each letter.

The right strategy for your child is the one that works for him. How he learns might be very different from how you do. But supporting him through practice and repetition can help him remember new concepts and details.

It may also help him achieve success with taking tests. And that’s a real confidence-booster!

About the author

About the author

Keri Wilmot has worked with children, teens, and young adults for more than 20 years in a wide range of pediatric settings. Her teenage son has been diagnosed with ADHD.

Reviewed by

Reviewed by

Nelson Dorta, PhD is a pediatric neuropsychologist and an assistant professor of medical psychology in child psychiatry at the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Columbia University.