Articles, Literacy

Activities to help develop a child’s working memory

Weak working memory skills can have a negative impact across different subject areas, including reading and math. The signs of a weak working memory usually appear early on. The ‘Symptoms of weak working memory in children‘ are outlined by Nikki Bush in her article published on her website, 16 May 2016. Once identified, there is much that can be done by parents and teachers to help develop a child’s working memory and overcome this barrier to learning.

Creating an environment that is conducive to learning and teaching your child strategies that help them cope with memory requirements will go a long way in ensuring that they experience success at school and in life.

Know where your child is at

In order to meet your child where they are at, and to mediate effectively, it is important that you know your child well and understand the current limits of their working memory. If you do not know what your child’s limits are, you can begin by observing them carefully while they are doing school work, completing chores or processing instructions to follow. It will quickly become apparent if there are problems.

If your child continually loses track of what he / she is meant to be doing, is easily distracted and seems to be overwhelmed by simple tasks, then you will know that they have reached the limits of their working memory.

Help your child’s teacher to know where they are at

Be open and honest with your child’s teachers so that they also understand where your child is at. They see your child in a group setting and so the way that they experience your child and their understanding of your child may be different from yours. You have much to learn from each other about your child. The communication between teacher and parent is one way to ensure that you work as a team, for the good of your child, and that what is taught at home and school correlates. Your child’s teachers will appreciate being kept in the loop and will be much more open to cooperating when they see the understanding you have and the effort you are putting in.

Below are some suggestions for strengthening working memory skills. This is not an exhaustive list of activities. These will give you a starting point, won’t break the bank and will hopefully not make you feel overwhelmed in terms of what you should and could be doing for your struggling child. Use these suggestions as a starting point and build from here if you feel more intervention is required.

I have included additional reading links at the bottom of this article for anyone who would like to investigate further.

1. Create structure through routines

  • Routines create structure and familiarity where repetitive daily tasks need to be learned and carried out.
  • Routines lower a child’s stress levels, making their day more predictable and feel more achievable.
  • When a child is able to automate a task it means that they no longer need to rely on their working memory to get it done. This will reduce the working memory load/burden your child experiences, which frees up their working memory or cognitive space to deal with new information, learning and problem-solving.
  • Consistency goes a long way in setting up routines – ensuring same time, same steps, same sequence are all important.
  • Setting up routines will need to be done at school as well as at home. Some children struggle with routines such as keeping their desk tidy, packing up at the end of a lesson, following lineup procedures and bathroom routines.

2. Chunk information into smaller pieces.

  • Help your child to break down what is required of them.
  • Slow down the pace of the delivery of information so that they have time to process it.
  • Break tasks into smaller, simplified and more manageable chunks.
  • Address one chunk one at a time and in sequence.
  • Use simple language.
  • Be specific and keep to short simple steps or instructions.
  • It often helps to write the steps down or to create graphic organizers to depict what needs to be learned.

3. Work on visualization skills.

  • Working memory forms part of a group of skills that make up executive function.
  • According to Michael Greschler of SMARTS, visualization strategies are a powerful way to engage executive function processes.
  • This strategy works by decreasing the working memory load and freeing up cognitive space for new learning.
  • It may also decrease a child’s anxiety around task completion and performance.
  • When a child is asked to visualize something, they learn to create visual representations of what they are hearing.
  • For many children, recalling visual information is much easier than recalling auditory information, as it becomes more concrete and less abstract for them.
  • Visualization strategies are not just applicable in childhood but can be seen as the development of a life skill and coping mechanism that can be carried through to adulthood.

4. Get them to teach what they have learned.

  • To check a child’s understanding and to cement the steps of a task in their memory, it can be helpful to ask them to repeat it back to you or to teach it to you or someone else in the family.
  • Teaching forces the child to make sense of the information they are holding on to.
  • It also forces them to break the task down into steps and to place them into a logical sequence and to check themselves.
  • If they experience a hiccup in either of these two areas while teaching, the problem can be rectified before they have to actually carry out the task in real life.
  • Through the teaching process, they soon discover any missing links in their understanding. They often fill these gaps themselves right in the moment or they may ask for help. Either way, the goal will have been achieved and learning will have taken place.
  • Teaching can be seen as a trial run. Knowing that they have this opportunity to test their knowledge and understanding may also have the effect of reducing stress and anxiety levels.

5. Play card games that improve memory.

  • Games that require a child to hold on to information for later use while remembering the rules of the game are always beneficial.
  • If a child experiences enjoyment during the game they are likely to play that game repeatedly, giving lots of opportunities to practice their skills and develop their working memory. The best part of all of this is that they won’t realize that they are learning as they’ll just be having fun.
  • Games like Go Fish, Crazy Eights (how to play with a standard deck of cards), DOS and Uno are classic examples of great memory games.

6. Encourage active reading.

  • Active reading strategies can be a powerful way to help your child cope better and hold onto information for longer. They should be taught these strategies from as young as possible.
  • Making use of colour when underlining and highlighting, as well as sticky notes, can make an enormous difference to a child who struggles to hold onto information needed to answer questions.
  • Reading aloud, discussion, asking questions, creating graphical depictions of the information and consciously connecting known information with new information can help a child with working memory.
  • This type of active engagement during reading needs to be taught and practiced. Once again, this is an essential life skill that a child can carry with them through to adulthood


Visualize Executive Function by Michael Greschler, M.Ed., SMART Director

Working memory: Kid Sense.

Working memory boosters: Understood.*4hwhxs*domain_userid*YW1wLUlxQWlsaXhKNzBxS3BYU3RCRzNGcnc.

Working memory? What it is and how it works?: Understood.

Additional reading

What is working memory and why is it important? by Lianne Bantjes

15 Amazing Memory Games For Kids by Parenting: First Cry

How to Help Kids With Working Memory Issues: Supportive Strategies by Rae Jacobson

Edge Toys. Educational toys for children of all ages

To explore working with Lianne in Randburg / Sandton and other areas in Johannesburgcontact her for a consultation to discuss how she can assist you.

Articles, Literacy

What is working memory and why is it important?

Two girls making use of their working memory by playing chess.

A child uses working memory to hold on to information long enough to use it. It affects a child’s ability to concentrate and complete minor, everyday tasks. Under-developed working memory skills can cause learning problems across many subjects and negatively affect a child’s school life.

Working memory is one of our cognitive systems, which has a limited capacity to hold information, for a short period of time, for use in everyday tasks. As a system, it plays a role in…

  • reasoning,
  • decision-making,
  • problem-solving,
  • learning
  • and behavior.

It is important to note that short-term memory and working memory are not the same thing.

Working memory analogy

Try to picture working memory as the surface of a desk. Obviously, the bigger the desk the more space you have to work on and the more tools, resources and information it can hold at one time. A bigger desk surface helps us to easily cope with bigger more complex tasks. While we are busy with a task we use the desk surface to organize ourselves and to hold everything we need. We can spread ourselves out and get on with the task at hand, reaching for the tools we need which are just a short distance away.

If you have an extremely large desk surface you could perhaps manage several tasks or projects at the same time, without having to pack anything away as you move between tasks.

A smaller desk surface, on the other hand, can get messy and chaotic making it hard to accommodate everything that we need or to find what we require. Sometimes we have to clear certain things off the desk to accommodate other things that we require more immediately. It becomes challenging to remain organized. The point is that each individual person’s desk has a unique capacity.

Working memory operates in a similar way. In our working memory we hold the information, tools and resources that we may need in the short term, to complete a task, make decisions, or even to problem solve. The capacity of our working memory affects what we can achieve and how easily and smoothly we are able to work. This is because it involves the processing, manipulation & transformation of verbal and visual information.

It is a bit like getting ready to bake a cake. In an ideal world, you would have enough surface space in your kitchen to lay out everything you will need – recipe, mixing bowls, mixers, spatula, whisks, baking trays, measuring spoons, sieve, scale, etc. In addition, you would be able to fit all the ingredients you will need on the countertop in an organized fashion. Ingredients such as flour, eggs, sugar, baking powder, butter, vanilla essence and salt. Having enough surface space to hold all of your baking tools and ingredients will allow you to be organized, follow the steps in the recipe sequentially and to quickly and easily produce a perfect cake. On the other hand, baking in a kitchen with very limited counter space can be challenging, complicated and messy – not impossible – but not easy. There is more room for error and failure when things are messy and chaotic. You will have to go back and forth multiple times between the cupboard and the counter to get what you need. You might have to layer things one on top of the other or place them on the floor to create more surface space to work on. It could be a bit of a juggle.

Working memory likened to getting ready to bake.

A child with a well-developed working memory is able to bring to the fore and hold on to a list of instructions, sequential information or previously learned skills and knowledge, until they are needed to complete a task. A child with an extensive working memory could manage to hold many more resources and easily and independently complete several tasks within a short space of time. In contrast, a child with a weak working memory would struggle to hold on to everything required to successfully complete a task or to follow a simple set of instructions.

Case Study 1

As teachers, we all know the child in a classroom who is left behind as the rest of the class moves to the next classroom. He hasn’t yet…

  • labeled his work,
  • hasn’t placed his work in the paper tray,
  • hasn’t returned the book he was using,
  • hasn’t packed up all his belongings,
  • hasn’t straightened his desk,
  • hasn’t pushed in his chair
  • and hasn’t put on his blazer
  • even though the teacher listed what needed doing at least 5 times.

He is the kid that is feeling anxious because…

  • he has been abandoned by his peers,
  • anxious because he knows he is now late for his next class,
  • anxious because he will probably be teased or chided in the next room,
  • feels self-conscious because he didn’t manage to follow the instructions given by the teacher,
  • is still in the classroom when the next class arrives,
  • knows that as he leaves the arriving class will have something to say,

He laughs on the outside but feels terrible on the inside.

Anxious boy with a weak working memory.

He leaves the classroom with everything haphazardly stuffed into his bag, zip wide open, his bag thrown across his back, his blazer half on and half off, he is half running – a picture of disorganization. He is now late to get settled in the next classroom. He has started off on the wrong foot yet again. This is how this poor child stumbles through their school day. It is a blur of inability and anxiety, neither of which are conducive to learning. Home is a little different perhaps. There is less anxiety but he still cannot follow simple, sequential instructions and is always in trouble because his mom has to ask repeatedly for things to be done or completed. They miss out on so much learning because their brain is busy with feeling self-conscious and anxious.

Case Study 2

The teacher asks the class to do a math equation in their heads. She asks them to add 24 and 13 and to then subtract 9. A child’s working memory allows them to visualize the numbers they are hearing (24; 13; 9) and to hold on to them long enough to manipulate them. Working memory allows the child to hold on to the addition total (the manipulation of 24 and 13) so that the 9 can be subtracted and the answer given to the teacher.

A boy doing math calculations using his working memory.

Hereafter, the child can let go of these numbers as their working memory has done its job. There is no longer a need to remember them. A child with working memory problems could have trouble at any stage of this task or at all stages, making it difficult to complete.

Weak working memory and its effect on school work and daily life

Children who have a hard time grasping sequential instructions, staying organized, prioritizing and following explicit directions and recalling how to do something they have done repeatedly may be facing difficulties with their working memory. Working memory is an executive function and plays a major role in how we process, remember and use the information to go about our daily tasks and solve life’s problems.

Working memory skills are essential to success in all aspects of the classroom, such as remembering what you heard, following a simple set of instructions, responding during a conversation, solving complicated math problems involving several steps, answering questions, holding on to an idea for use in a few moments time, holding on to information while waiting your turn and so much more.

Kid Sense identifies the following areas of learning that are greatly affected by poor working memory:

  • Maths
  • reading comprehension
  • complex problem solving
  • organizational skills
  • and assessments.

The biggest impact on school work occurs from difficulties with maths and reading comprehension (Kid Sense: Working Memory).

What can you do if your child has a weak working memory?

The good news is that a child can be helped to improve their working memory. This help can be implemented at home and at school. If the parents and teachers decide to work as a team, are consistent in their efforts and persevere over the long term there is a good chance that a child can overcome this difficulty. Obviously, the earlier working memory problems are detected the better.

For information on what you can do to help a child with weak working memory, please read my next article by CLICKING HERE.


Further reading

To explore working with Lianne in Randburg / Sandton and other areas in Johannesburgcontact her for a consultation to discuss how she can assist you.

Literacy, Past Workshops

Reading aloud to Children

– Johannesburg –

 'Reading aloud to Children' workshop hosted by Lianne from LB Literacy in Randburg, Johannesburg.
‘Reading aloud to Children’ workshop hosted by Lianne from LB Literacy in Randburg, Johannesburg.

Workshop – 26 June, 2019 – Randburg, Johannesburg

Another worthwhile morning was spent with wonderful people interested in and passionate about raising literate children.

On the 26th June 2019, I was joined by several ECD teachers, a forensic social worker and a School Principal to find out why ‘reading aloud to young children’ is so important and how it forms the foundation for literacy, success at school and possibly success in life too.

Along with a few demonstrations I gave tips, tricks and advice on how to inspire a love of reading in young children. There were lots of ‘aha’ moments during our discussions and based on the feedback I believe the attendees left more knowledgeable and inspired to make changes.

If you would like to find out more about upcoming workshops, please click HERE. Alternatively, if you would like to book a workshop to be presented at your organization, please contact Lianne at

Literacy and social media / digital era

I have had umpteen parents tell me over the last few years that reading and writing isn’t that important anymore. I usually ask these parents to consider the fact that due to social media and the digital era, we have way more text coming our way throughout the day, via multiple platforms in both our private and our work lives.

Just some of the social media apps we interact with daily.
Just some of the social media apps we interact with daily.

We interact with these communication /publication platforms publicly and constantly – some of us are required to do so as part of our work obligations. We, therefore, need to be MORE literate than ever before because we have to be able to read, comprehend and process information fast and accurately. We also need to be able to respond meaningfully, quickly, professionally and often publicly, right there and then. The public aspect of these platforms, as well as the speed at which one is expected to communicate, means that we are under a lot more pressure to perform in the area of language and communication than ever before.

A mother is practicing pre-reading skills through picture reading with a young child.
A mother is practicing pre-reading skills through picture reading with a young child.

Is reading going out of fashion?

Reading is not going ‘out of fashion’. One of the main reasons that we have a low academic pass rate, a high drop out rate before matriculation, matriculants who are unemployable and a workforce that cannot cope in South Africa is because our literacy levels are abysmal. This is because we do not have a reading culture in South Africa. We are in the middle of a literacy crisis in this country. To read more about South Africa’s Literacy Crisis, please click here.

Literacy as a foundation and S.A.’s literacy crisis

Literacy forms a large part of the foundation for all other education and the sooner we understand this and start reacting appropriately to this crisis the better. We need to go back to the basics such as reading aloud to children. However, it is not only up to our government to fix this problem. It is up to all of us to do our bit :

  • with our own children
  • the children in our communities
  • and by supporting teachers, schools and local literacy programs in whatever way we can.


This workshop was about creating awareness, growing knowledge & skills around literacy development, inspiring attendees to do more and to make necessary changes at home and in the work they do with children.

For feedback on this workshop, please go to Mrs K. Mazhuwa’s feedback on the TESTIMONIALS page by clicking here.

Further reading

To read more about the Consequences of Illiteracy, please click here.

If you would like to find out more about upcoming workshops, please click HERE. Alternatively, if you would like to book a workshop to be presented at your organization, please contact Lianne at

Literacy, Past Workshops

The How & Why of Reading Aloud to Children


Workshop held at Oasis Baby Bridge the Gap School in Cosmo City, Johannesburg

22 May 2019

An inspiring, meaningful and heartfelt morning was spent with the teachers from the Oasis Baby Bridge the Gap School, as well as a few teachers and principals from the local community. We were also joined by three young ladies who live locally and who are determined to get into teaching as a career.

The idea behind the workshop was to motivate, support and inspire these teachers to use the magic of READING ALOUD to grow the literacy levels of the children in their care, as effectively as possible, while developing & fostering a love of books & reading.

Our morning was filled with discussing / demonstrating the following:

  • Why should we read aloud to kids?
  • The process of introducing a new book or story that creates EXCITEMENT
    • Pre-reading strategies
    • Prediction
    • Drawing out known vocabulary
  • Reading the story & how to create MAGIC
    • Building excitement & interest through intonation & body language
    • Maintaining interest & engagement through questions & participation
    • Introducing new vocabulary
    • Linking new information with existing knowledge
    • Creating opportunities for repetition & discussion
  • After reading
    • End on a high note.
    • Always tell learners how much you enjoyed reading to them.
    • Compliment the learners on their behaviour & engagement levels.
    • Reading must be a feel-good activity and must be associated with positive things.
  • Extension activities
    • Extension activity: Discuss what happened in the story.
    • Extension activity: Allow learners to retell the story or parts of the story.
    • Extension activity: Bring in critical & analytical thinking by
      • asking learners to give their opinion regarding what one of the characters says or does
      • asking learners to say why they loved, liked, felt neutral to or hated the story giving reasons for their answers
      • ask learners what in their opinion a character could have done differently to change the outcome of the story
      • ask learners if they can think of ways that this story can be linked or likened to real life
    • Extension activity: All learners to draw their favourite characters from the story and then to present them to the class with a verbal description.
    • Extension activity: Stop before the end of the story and come up with your own endings.
    • Extension activity: Rewriting the end of the story even if you know what happens in the book / choose a different ending.
  • Why children love to reread stories over and over and why this is important.
  • How can you get something new out of a story every time you read it?
  • How frequently should children be read to?

Nyameka Ngqondi, one of the current teachers at Oases Baby Bridge the Gap School, identified the need to start a school for children who are excluded from local schools for various reasons. Oases Baby Bridge the Gap School fills a unique need for about 20 children. I was so impressed by how enthusiastic and well behaved the learners were and how passionate the teachers are. It made me all the more pleased to be able to conduct this workshop with them.

We ended our day by forming break-away groups and each teacher took a small group of children out into the sunshine and had the chance to read a book aloud to the learners while implementing what they had seen and heard. It was heartwarming to see the children upon their knees, clamoring around the teachers, completely transfixed by the stories being read to them. It was the perfect ending to a wonderful morning of learning & discovery.

To see the passion and drive demonstrated by the attending teachers & community members showed me, yet again, how much talent & commitment there is out there in South Africa. It also highlighted how many well-intentioned, yet invisible, individuals we have, doing great work out in our local communities, here in Johannesburg and across the country. They need recognition and a huge appreciative pat on the back as their jobs are hard and often thankless.

If you would like to find out more about upcoming workshops, please click HERE. Alternatively, if you would like to book a workshop to be presented at your organization, please contact Lianne at

Articles, Literacy, Reading

The Secret Power of the Children’s Picture Book

A young child is reading a story with his mom about a fox.

“Even infants get profound cognitive and behavioral benefits from sharing a vivid story,” says Ms. Gurdon of the Wall Street Journal (18 January 2019).

If you are a parent you simply must read this article I came across in The Wall Street Journal. It is written by Ms. Gurdon who writes the WSJ’s “Children’s Books” column. The magic and power that lie behind the picture book have been expressed so well by her that I cannot help but publish the link here so that you can read the original article.

This is an essay adapted from Ms. Gurdon’s book “The Enchanted Hour: The Miraculous Power of Reading Aloud in the Age of Distraction“. Within 5 minutes of reading the article, I had ordered her book online.

To find out more and to read the full essay, please click the link below:

Further reading

To explore working with Lianne in Randburg / Sandton and other areas in Johannesburg, contact her for a consultation to discuss how she can assist you.

Articles, Literacy, Reading

What are the PROS and CONS of reading to your child daily?

A Grandmother reads to her two grandchildren.

I covered “Why you CAN’T skip reading to your child for 20 minutes per day” in a previous post. Today I want to focus on the pros and cons of reading to your child daily.

The PROS of reading to your child daily are that it..

  • fosters parent-child bonding
  • will help him/her to associate reading with emotional comfort and enjoyment
  • prepares him/her for sleep if part of a bedtime routine
  • improves motor skills when opening the book, turning pages and gripping with thumb and forefinger
  • boosts brain development
  • helps him/her to master language
  • builds vocabulary and understanding
  • develops sound recognition
  • acts as a stepping stone for conversation
  • develops the skill of logic when reading a story repeatedly
  • teaches him/her about prediction
  • develops the imagination
  • develops and improves attention span and concentration
  • is the start of understanding sequences, which is important for math, science and writing
  • encourages a love of reading which is invaluable
  • promotes discussion (which can contribute to dinner time conversation)
  • promotes the development of healthy habits
  • is relaxing and soothing and is good for stress reduction
  • improves emotional and social development
  • will become an activity that YOU can’t do without
  • promotes cuddling, snuggling and sharing

This list is not exhaustive.

The CONS of reading to your child daily are that…

  • you have to find time in your already busy schedule
  • you have to be disciplined no matter how you feel on the day
  • you have to manage your feelings of boredom due to monotony
  • you have to get your child to bed before they are too tired for story time

It’s a no brainer. Are you convinced yet?

Further reading:

To explore working with Lianne (online or face-to-face) in Randburg / Sandton and other areas in Johannesburg, contact her for a consultation to discuss how she can assist you.

Articles, Literacy

Arrive on time and be ready to learn.

A little boy arrives at school fresh and ready to learn with his teacher and peers.

Experienced teachers share things parents should do to set their kids up for success – Part 5 of 10

Today we explore how to arrive on time and be ready to learn. In other words, here you will find tips for helping your child be prepared for the day.

Teaching your child the skill of being prepared, and enforcing routines and behaviours that allow them to achieve this, can be the difference between academic success and mediocrity. As a rule, children who do well academically are seldom the ones who arrive at school late, carrying half their project in their arms, sleep-deprived with disheveled hair and dragging a lunch box full of processed food behind them.


Whether we like it or not, routine is the recipe for being on time and having happy kids and parents. I might also add, that it is the answer to happy teachers too and most certainly contributes to academic success. The routines I’m referring to are morning routines, after school routines, homework routines and bed time routines. These routines are the cornerstone of children being able to arrive on time, ready to learn.

Your kids might buck against a new routine to begin with. However, when they know what comes next, what is expected of them, where the boundaries are and that there are no exceptions, they usually settle down and accept it quite quickly. Never give up on establishing childhood routines. It takes time and consistency.

Routines becomes even more important when there is big change around the corner, such as moving house or changing schools. Keep as many and as much of your old routines in place as you possibly can. It will help everyone in your family to transition through the change with greater ease and less disruption.

Routines allow for predictability and smooth the way for arriving on time, being prepared, experiencing less stress and feeling open to learning. Just the fact that having routines can reduce unnecessary stress for children should be enough of a motivation to implement them.

Routines also allow you to move away from constantly supervising your child every step of the way and allowing for more independence and ownership of tasks. This is important for the development of a child’s self-esteem and self-confidence.

As adults it is our job to create, initiate and maintain these routines to ensure that children will arrive on time and be ready to learn.


I can speak for hours about how diet affects a child’s performance, behaviour and readiness to learn. I tend to get on my high horse whenever the topic comes up, so please forgive me for doing so now. But really, with the access to information that we have today, there are no more excuses. Jamie Oliver has made sure of that with his food education drives that have reached out globally.

Firstly, breakfast is not negotiable. Grab a banana and a yoghurt for the kids and let them eat in the car if you have to. If you can, move away from sugary cereals and explain why you are doing so to your child. Educating our little ones about healthy food choices is essential and should start as early as possible.

If you’re packing your child’s lunch box with ANY of the following – chips, sweets, chocolates, biscuits, sugary drinks, McDonalds, left over pizza or two minute noodles – I’m talking to you, and I’m mad. The rest of you can skip to the next subheading.

None of the things I have mentioned above should be anywhere near your child’s lunch box, except for once a week, as a treat.

How can any reasonable person expect teachers to control 15 – 50 kids, in a confined space, who are wired on sugar, colourants, preservatives, MSG and a host of other bad things? If you want to sabotage your child’s ability to succeed at school, this is a very reliable way to do it. Do you have any idea how your angel behaves in a large group setting when they are high on sugar and MSG? Looking at the contents of the lunch box you packed, I’d say clearly not.

If your child is on medication related to behaviour and /or concentration and you are feeding them sugar and junk food, you may as well flush it down the loo. Any good that comes from taking the medicine is being cancelled out by unhealthy lunch box contents. There is a good chance that with a positive change in diet, your child won’t need medication at all to improve his / her concentration. You could save a ton of money and spend it on even healthier food options.

It may also surprise you to know that 100% fruit juice is not a healthy drink for kids and yet it is in every child’s lunch box almost daily. What is wrong with water? Ask any dietician whether it is healthy for kids to drink undiluted fruit juice on a daily basis? The answer is NO, because of the number of calories, the cavities it causes and the amount of sugar involved. This is not the way to ensure that your child will arrive on time and be ready to learn.

In an interview on the e-Tv Sunrise Show, Tabitha Hume (2015), one of Johannesburg’s leading clinical dieticians, recommended these TOP FIVE TIPS TO HEALTHY LUNCH BOXES

1. Provide whole grains and slow releasing carbohydrates. 
Carbohydrates are broken down by the body into glucose, the primary source of fuel for the brain. By including brown and whole wheat breads/rolls/biscuits meals there will be a constant trickle of energy for the brain to function optimally. 
2. Include fresh fruit and vegetables daily
Fruit and veggies provide the vitamins and minerals necessary for children to stay healthy and fight off unwanted germs. Including veggie sticks or fresh fruit is a better option than including a juice box. This is because unprocessed fruit and veggies in their whole form, as well as slow releasing carbohydrates, contain fibre which helps children stay fuller for longer and able to concentrate on the task at hand rather than a grumbling tummy.
3. Clean safe water is an absolute must. 
Research has shown that even a small degree of dehydration can impair cognitive function and concentration.
4. Provide your child with sufficient snacks for the day. 
Your brain needs two fuels to function, oxygen and glucose. Providing enough well compiled snacks will prevent a drop in blood sugar which will leave the child with less energy, more easily frustrated and with a feeling of hunger.
5. Plan carefully.
With today’s fast paced life parents may tend to lead to convenient foods or even giving their children tuck-shop money. These foods are often high in sugar and fat which may impact a child’s weight. Childhood obesity has been proven to impact on disease status in ones later years of life.

As adults it is our job to control our kids diets and to educate them about healthy eating.


Children consistently need an age appropriate amount of sleep to be alert and ready to learn all day. If you have your routines in place, you should be able to get sleep right with your kids 90% of the time. The National Sleep Foundation tells us that most school aged children need 9-11 hours of sleep a night.

Without enough sleep it is impossible for a child to perform at their peak, academically or otherwise. So each day that your child is tired adds up to another day where they have lost out on information due to slow thinking or a lack of concentration.

We also know that not enough sleep can cause irritability, changes in behaviour, sleepiness, difficulty concentrating and moodiness. Not only can a lack of sleep affect academic performance, the ability to concentrate and feelings of motivation, but it can also increase irritability. Irritability can lead to conflict, causing relationship problems and problems with authority.

With today’s busy schedules it is quite difficult for children to catch up on sleep, much like it is for adults. Therefore, disciplined routines are essential so that sleep is not compromised.

As adults it is our job to create healthy sleep routines, which will ensure that our children arrive on time and are ready to learn.

Be organised

Another life skill that children need to be taught from a young age is organisational skills. Kids who have weak organisation skills struggle with handling information in effective ways. Simple tasks, like packing up toys and putting them in the right place, can begin the process of learning to be organised.

Weak organisational skills frequently lead to difficulties in setting and identifying priorities, making and sticking to plans, staying with a task and reaching end goals. This makes it difficult for a child to arrive on time and be ready to learn

Amanda Morin from Understood discusses the 4 ways that children use organisational skills to learn. Below I’ve shared some of what she has to say.

  • Organisation and Following Directions – Children have to focus on what needs to be done and then plan ahead, which requires mental organisation.
  • Organisation and Learning to Read – When matching sounds to symbols, learners need to file this information in a way that makes it easily retrievable. As learners progress through learning to read and striving for fluency the filing system in their head becomes more complicated, requiring more complex organisational skills.
  • Organisation and Literacy Learning – Literacy is a combination of reading, writing and grammar skills. To navigate between these three a child requires a number of organisation strategies.
  • Organisation and Learning Math – Math is a very organised subject. There are many rules and procedures to follow. As math gets more abstract and complex, children with weak organisation skills have trouble coping because they can’t create their own categories for sorting the information.

Children first learn by example and therefore it is important that organised behaviour is modelled in the home. They need to be taught that lego goes in one box and building blocks in another box. Norms like this also teach categorising skills to children, which later leads to the ability to organise information.

Letting children know implicitly that they are expected to be organised, and why, really helps. We also need to praise them when they get it right. If they can understand the reason behind a rule they are more likely to cooperate sooner or more frequently. It needs to be pointed out to them that there is a correlation between organisational skills and success at school. These skills have to be learnt and practiced as we are not born with them.

Set an example for your children. If you’re tidying up, packing your bag for the next day or making tomorrows lunches, make them aware of it and let them do the same alongside you. They can tidy their rooms, pack their school bags neatly, pack any sports bags they require and can even get involved in sorting out lunch boxes. If they forget or leave a bag at home, do not drop it off at school for them. Don’t take the responsibility or the opportunity to learn away from them. We have to realise that sometimes helping is actually hurting and that mistakes are an opportunity to learn. Being left out of the swimming class will ensure that their swimming bag never gets left behind again. The less you do for them, the more they will do for themselves.

Being organised allows children to stay focused on the task at hand and maximises learning time instead of wasting it on chasing down pencil bags and other resources needed at the time.

As adults, it is our job to model good organisational skills and to help our children to develop these skills. It is part of arriving on time and being ready to learn. Since it is impossible for us to always be there to run around after our kids we need to instil skills that allow for greater independence.

Arrive on time

Teaching your kids the value of being punctual is as easy as making sure that you get them to school on time almost every day of their school careers. I say ‘almost every day’ because we are all human and there are going to be those days where life does not cooperate. That’s okay, because kids also need to know that it is alright to be human and fallible.

The problem lies with those parents that are consistently late for school on a regular basis. Strangely enough, these are usually the parents who live within a few roads of the school. They cannot even use traffic as a plausible excuse. When a teacher addresses the problem with these parents, they never seem to get the severity of the problem. Punctuality is just not a priority for them.

The unintended consequence of a child being late for school on a regular basis are enormous and far reaching.

  • Firstly, they’re embarrassed because they stand out for reasons that they have no control over. If this happens daily their embarrassment grows.
  • This leads to daily stress and anxiety.
  • It is very disruptive to the start of the day for the teacher and it becomes incredibly annoying over time. The class register is always incorrect, early morning administration is incomplete and then requires followup, preparation routines are missed or interrupted and it generally starts the day off badly for everyone.
  • It is disruptive to the child’s peers as the morning routine is interrupted. Everyone’s concentration is adversely affected. Other children start to get annoyed over a period of time and they start to show their irritation in mean ways, as children often do.
  • Being late regularly has a social impact on a child because no one wants to be in a group with them. This is mainly because these children are perceived to be unreliable and separate from the rules that govern everyone else.
  • The stress and anxiety they feel prevents the child from focusing and from being ready to learn, causing even greater disruption and another reason why no one wants to work with them.
  • This child remains on the back foot all day, trying to catch up as they haven’t had the preparation time and gentle start to the day that everyone else has had.
  • They sometimes start to be treated as if they don’t belong because the rules that apply to everyone else don’t seem to apply to them. Kids are mean to those who appear to be outsiders. These children sometimes drift between friends and groups of friends, but never seem to settle into steady friendships. They don’t really belong and this is when teachers really start to be concerned.
  • When a child is isolated, does not feel like they belong, feels self-conscious, stressed, anxious, left behind and unprepared, we, as parents and teachers, cannot expect them to be academically successful or working to their full potential.

I believe that many parents, who notoriously get their kids to school late, do not intend for these to be the consequences. In fact, I think they may be completely unaware that there are consequences when you don’t arrive on time and ready to learn. If you are one of those parents, I hope that my article has opened your eyes and given you the motivation to make changes, for the sake of your child.

Further reading

For Part 4 in this series and to read ” Should we be strict about restricting screen time?”, please click here.

To explore working with Lianne in Randburg / Sandton and other areas in Johannesburg, contact her for a consultation to discuss how she can assist you.