Sequential Memory Activities for Kids

By Catherine Kohn
Learning number sequences is an essential math skill.
Learning number sequences is an essential math skill.

Sequencing is a vital intellectual function that requires a person to be able to place events in chronological order and understand cause and effect. Children need to practice their sequencing skills so they can read with increased comprehension, enhance their ability to solve problems, improve their practical living skills and increase their ability to become academically successful. The federal government's new Common Core Standards includes standards for using sequencing skills at nearly every grade level.

Writing Instructions

Writing instructions requires children to develop their ability to think sequentially. Begin by asking them to describe in writing simple tasks such as how to make chocolate milk or how to make a piece of toast. As they master the ability to write sequence instructions, give them more challenging instructions to write such as how to clean out a desk or how to take care of a goldfish. Choose tasks they are interested in and are familiar with. If your child loves to help in the kitchen, have her write recipe instructions for her favorite dishes, or if she plays the guitar, have her write instructions for how to learn to play a simple song.

Picture Cards and Sentence Strips

Teacher Bridget Wortman, who works with elementary school students, recommends creating story book picture cards to illustrate key events. After reading the story, ask your child to place the cards in the correct order from memory. If you have more than one child working on this activity have them discuss the sequence as they work together. Compare the final version against the book. After the child has mastered the story line using the picture cards, provide her with pre-made sentence strips with key events from the story and ask her to place them in the correct order. Read the story together using the story strips, compare with the original and correct any that are misplaced.


One way to make learning sequences fun for children is to use hand puppets. Have the puppet say a string of sounds, numbers, letters or words and have the child repeat back what the puppet has said. Begin with brief sequences and as he improves his performance, increase the number of sequenced items and lengthen the time between when the sequence is given and when he should repeat it.

Items From Around the House

Using some items from around the house and some silly commands you can help your child improve her ability to understand sequences. Place a variety of household items around the room and then give a series of silly commands for her to perform in the order they are given. For example, tell her to sit on the floor, put a sock on her hand, stand up and wave with the sock, jump up and down, find the umbrella and twirl it over her head. Another method is to place a variety of household objects on a serving tray and cover them with a large napkin. Allow your child to examine the objects for at least a minute, then cover the tray and ask her how many she can remember. Increase the number as she improves her performance.

Group Activities

If you have a group of children you can build their sequencing skills with games. In Order! Order!, each child is given a single direction from a sequence of directions, such as how to bake cookies or how to get from home to the grocery store. Split the group of children into two smaller groups so that they won't all have directions for the same task. Then they are given five minutes to find the other children in the group who have the other parts that complete their directions. They figure out the correct order of their directions and read the completed directions aloud. Another game for a group is called Story Ball, which requires you telling the children that they will have to create a five-minute story. Give them an opening sentence such as "it was a dark and stormy night," and then toss a ball to one of the children and have him say the next sentence of the story. Each child tosses the ball to another and each must add another sentence to the story until the five minutes are up. These are especially good sequencing games for older children and teenagers.

About the Author

Catherine Kohn is a veteran journalist with more than 30 years of experience. She holds a BA in writing from the University of South Florida and is a certified elementary and secondary teacher. She has taught preschool, elementary, middle and high school. At Morris Communications she was special sections editor, education reporter, news editor and features editor. She is also an award-winning newspaper layout designer.