From what age do children start having permanent memory of incidents such as mother slapping her very hard, father reading her stories, doing drawing and other crafts, meeting an accident?

What is the maximum long term memory at what age?

Example: My child is currently 2 years 4 months old. I read her story books daily. Will she remember this when she is 32?

  • It varies from person to person. I have memories from being in kindergarten and I think the year before. So that's anywhere from 3-5 for me.
    – user7678
    Commented Oct 26, 2015 at 11:31
  • I'm not sure "incidents" is really well defined here. None of the things you just described would match my definition of "incidents" - all of those things are fairly minor unless associated with something stronger or repetitive. And what defines "long term"? Remembers them a few days later? Weeks? A year later? Perhaps you should put a bit more into the question - particularly, if there's context behind it.
    – Joe
    Commented Oct 26, 2015 at 21:17
  • @Joe I edited the question somewhat. Is it fine now? Commented Oct 27, 2015 at 6:42
  • It varies, but I've got pre-K memories. Not many, mind you, but a couple. So... > 30 years. My 11 year old still remembers having a white cat, and we haven't had him since she was about 18 months old!
    – afrazier
    Commented Oct 27, 2015 at 13:16
  • Good point @afrazier - I can remember a cocker spaniel (dog) that we had when I was pre-K (maybe 2 or 3 years old) and my mother is always AMAZED that I can remember him. That (in my humble opinion) shows how strongly children bond with animals.
    – user7678
    Commented Oct 27, 2015 at 13:24

3 Answers 3


I found one source that claims 14 to 18 months for long-lasting memory, though without defining "long-lasting".

Remembering comes on various levels, though:

  • Specific

    Daddy turned to page 134.

  • General

    Daddy read me The Phantom Tollbooth

  • Abstract

    Daddy read me stories

  • Experiential

    I loved my time with daddy

Ask yourself this: Why will your child remember what you look like?

The answer is, of course, that seeing you was a repeated experience, but that is not all... the emotion behind each of those experiences gives them added strength/meaning/weight.

My daughter remembers me reading her The Phantom Tollbooth, but none of the other books -- it was one that for whatever reason embedded in her permanent consciousness... and that is how long term memory works... it is sometimes rather random. Where there is strong emotion, though, there is an increased chance of the memory lasting longer.

The point is that you really shouldn't care about what she will or will not remember to varying degrees -- just make every moment count and their sum will carry the day in that she will remember you for the awesome parent you are, in all its various facets.

  • What a lovely answer. A well-deserved +1 from me. :) Commented Oct 29, 2015 at 5:58

They usually start remembering big events in their life at about age four. It helps a lot if you show them pictures because then memories come back. But they probably won't remember it at age two. Maybe three though.

  • 1
    Note that it's not always the "big events" that children remember. For example, from the 2-3-year-old range, I remember the time the railroad crossing gates across the street got stuck, and watching the garbage truck pick up the trash, and one time the thermometer reached 100F (not a big event when you're living in Los Angeles), and similarly minor things. In contrast, the first birthday I remember was when I turned 9.
    – Mark
    Commented Nov 1, 2015 at 2:49

Every person is different.

My own earliest memory is of my father getting on a plane, and the plane taking off from Logan. He was heading for Vietnam, and since I had never seen a plane landing, I assumed that Vietnam must be way up in the air. I had a very vivid image of Vietnam, reinforced, I assume, by photos from magazines, because it was reasonably accurate -- sunny, hot, dense jungle -- except for the detail that it was floating Avalon-like somewhere high in the stratosphere above Boston.

That was 1967, I was about 23 months old.

I would tell strangers "My daddy's up there" -- much to the consternation of my mother. Only many years later was I able to explain to her my somewhat confused view at time of the purpose of air-travel.

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