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Why Kids Space Out

Chances are your child has a memory like a steel trap  -- for some things. Grace Courville, 8, is like that. "She told me the name of the movie we were seeing over the weekend, listed the actresses in it, and repeated a quote from the trailer. When I asked where she'd left her shoes, though, she had no idea," says her mom, Mary Ellen, of Baton Rouge, LA.

Selective memory is perfectly normal for kids this age. They tend to remember what's important to them, which isn't usually what adults think is vital, says Virginia Shiller, Ph.D., author of Rewards for Kids! Plus, once they start school, they have more to remember than ever, and anything they don't find interesting falls by the wayside.

To help your child remember key details (like where her stuff is):

Don't overload her with too much information. If you want her to do three household chores without reminders, have her focus on one until it becomes a habit. Then add another.

Show her some tricks. Tell her to write "backpack" on her hand if it helps her remember to bring it home. If she always forgets her coat, stick a few of her prized Pok¿¿mon cards in a pocket so she's sure to retrieve it.

Don't remind too often. The more you nag her to do something, the more she'll tune you out.

Let her reap the benefits... If you offer a small reward for remembering to feed the dog for a couple of weeks, she'll get into the habit, even after you eventually stop the reward.

...and if she's not really trying, let her suffer the consequences. One canceled playdate due to a clothing item left at a friend's house may cure  -- or at least improve  -- absentmindedness.