Memory Games for Students with ADHD

Instructor: Maria Airth

Maria has a Doctorate of Education and over 20 years of experience teaching psychology and math related courses at the university level.

A good memory is a tool that can be honed and improved. This lesson offers games for students with ADHD to practice memory skills and build strong memories.


Have you ever tried to transfer water from one pot to another using a sieve? You are probably thinking that is a silly suggestion. The majority of the water would just pour right out and you would be wasting your time.

The sieve is a little like the memory of a child with ADHD. It does work, but there are so many 'memory leaks' that it can seem like the child has absolutely no ability to remember anything.

So, if you only had a sieve and you had to move water (maybe to bail out a boat) what would you do? Find a way to stop up the holes?

In the same way, improving the memory of a child with ADHD is similar to stopping up the holes in the sieve. The more the child practices and works on the skill of moving information from working memory to long term memory, the more that child will be able to remember in the future. Practice truly does make the difference when building up a person's memory skills.

These games are designed to build your students' memory skills through practice and technique building. Some are active games to play as a group, while others are solitary quiet activities to focus memory practice.

Active Games

When children are running around playing, they don't even realize they are also learning and working on important skills. These games get your students up and moving while working on memory skills.

Find the Target

For this game, you will need to make a set of cards (laminated sheets of copy paper would work great). The cards can show anything you like such as letters, numbers or animals. Make sure you make multiple cards of a single target image (like an 'X').

Place all the cards face up in a grid on the ground and let student teams view the grid for as long as you like. Tell the team to close their eyes while you turn all the cards over. Then, each team sends their members out, relay style, to search for target cards. When a target card is found the student returns with it to his/her team. Students must replace all non-target cards and return to their team. The team with the most targets at the end of the game wins.

Treasure Hunt

Hide a number of items around the classroom or playground (2-10). Write a list of where all the items are (e.g. ''apple - under the flag''). Allow your student a set amount of time to review the list. Start with 30 secs to a minute and decrease the time as your student's memory skills increase.

When the time is up, the student must run around the room gathering as many items as he/she can remember. Create a challenge in which the student competes against himself to find more and take less time reviewing the list as time goes by.

Animal Corner

Label the corners of your classroom with animal names (ostrich, camel, ant, tiger). Call out a number of the animals (start with a short list of two and increase the number as you are able). Students will run to each corresponding corner in order of the animals called. Encourage them to use strategies such as acronyms to help remember the correct order. For example: if you call out ''camel, ostrich, ant, tiger'' students can create the acronym C.O.A.T. to remember the correct order of the animals. After the game, ask students to share the strengths and weaknesses of their memory strategies.

Desk Activities

These activities are designed for students to stay at their own desks either working individually or as a class.

Flash Memory

Show a large image on the board for 30 seconds. Ask students to write down as many things as they can remember from the picture.

Select a few students to tell the class their memory strategy. Encourage students to use a memory strategy they've heard from their classmates. Repeat the activity using a different image.

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