Image by: Peter Lindberg

Tray Recall

Age Range
4-7 yrs
Setup Time
5 minutes!
Setup Location

Memory is a key component of cognition and plays an integral role in cognitive development. Memory can be broken down into a number of domains including explicit/declarative (consciously recalled memory), implicit/procedural (such as riding a bike), semantic (concept-based knowledge), episodic, and working memory. Working memory is a cognitive system used for short-term storage and manipulation of information required for diverse cognitive tasks (Baddeley 1992).

Working Memory is the thinking skill that focuses on memory-in-action: the ability to remember and use relevant information while in the middle of an activity. For example, a child is using their Working Memory as they recall the steps of a recipe while cooking a favorite meal. Children who have trouble with their Working Memory skills will often have difficulty remembering their teachers’ instructions, recalling the rules to a game, or completing other tasks that involve actively calling up important information.

This activity will stretch your child's brain and it’s quick to set-up and fun to play!


  1.  Collect an array of things around the house to put on a tray

  2. Players have 1 minute to view the tray of items, then they write down all they can remember (you can play around with how many items and how long they get)

  3. Talk with your kids about what strategies they are using to remember, and have them try out some others. For instance, are they visually chunking the items together based on where they are located? Are they making up a story in their head using the items? (Ex: The dinosaur used a green marker to draw scissors while listening to his iPod and chewing gum)

  4. It is fascinating to see how people record their list (some just write the words in a list, others write the words by location, while still others use words and pictures)

Disclaimer: This presents an overview of child development. It is important to keep in mind that the time frames presented are averages and some children may achieve various developmental milestones earlier or later than the average but still be within the normal range of development. This information is presented to help parents understand, at a high level, what to expect from their child. Any questions/concerns you may have about your child’s development should be shared with your doctor.