Timing and composition of the meals

The energy required by the functioning of the brain is also supplied through the food we eat

There are reasons to believe that children, more than adults, can be more prone to building glucose provisions. Proportional with corporal weight, children’s brains as bigger that those of adults, thus reflecting the rapid brain growth during the perinatal period. More than that, a given amount of brain tissue of a child uses more glucose than the same amount of brain tissue of an adult. The use of glucose per gram of brain tissue increases until the age of 4, when the brain requires almost double the energy compared to an adult brain. A fast rate of glucose consumption continues until the age of 9 or 10, after which it starts to decline, reaching a normal adult rate by the end of adolescence. Since the brain of a child is relatively bigger and more active than that of an adult, it is highly possible that children are more dependent on meals at regular intervals. The idea that the rate at which glucose is released into the bloodstream may influence the functioning of children is supported by studies that examined the effects of a drink containing glucose. During afternoon hours, children between 9 and 11 years of age remembered things better and spent more time on a task in comparison with the children who received a placebo. Similarly, by the end of the school day, 7-year-old children displayed an increased ability of paying attention and showed a lower risk of feeling frustrated after having a glucose drink.

There has been a particular interest on the effect of breakfast on the behavior of children. After revising this subject, a group of analysts concluded that, as data shows, skipping breakfast interferes with learning and cognition, an effect that is more extensive in children that are already at risk of malnutrition than in the well-fed ones. For example, eating breakfast instead of fasting improved cognitive performance in children of 9 to 11 years of age as soon as one hour after eating. The ability to maintain focus was better one hour after breakfast in children aged 9 to 12, although memory was not affected. However, 12-year-old children showed a better memory 30 minutes (but no later than that) after they had a bowl of cereals for breakfast, compared with those who fasted. The general impression generated by these studies was that the benefits were on short term, although more recently it was proven that it is the composition of the food that matters, when trying to establish a meal that would offer longer-term improvement.

In young adults, when different breakfast meals were compared with respect to the differences in the type of carbohydrates provided, if glucose was released more slowly, the memory was better until the end of the day. In the same way, when different breakfasts were compared with regard to their macronutrient components, a better memory was associated with an increased tolerance to glucose and the consumption of foods that released glucose more slowly in the bloodstream.

A way of interpreting these findings is that the cognitive functioning of a child benefits from a gradual release of energy. A study that linked the size of children’s breakfast and whether a snack was consumed afterwards to cognitive functioning had results that were consistent with this approach. Eating a small breakfast, containing approximately 61 Kcal, was associated with less time spent on school work. However, in these 9-year-olds, the negative effects of a small breakfast were overcome by the consumption of a snack later in the morning. The snack had no effect on children who had eaten a richer breakfast. Similarly, in Indian children aged 7 to 9, who consumed meals that differed by the morning hour at which they were eaten,  it was observed that a midmorning snack improved memory in those with a low socio-economic status but not in those with a higher socio-economic status.

In conclusion, there is a serious amount of evidence showing that various nutriments – including iodine, iron, zinc, choline, vitamin B12, folate and vitamin D – play important roles in the development of the brain. It has been suggested that an examination of these substances would help identify other nutrients that might be important in a similar manner – that is, those that are essential in cell division – whose level of intake varies greatly between individuals and whose biosynthetic capacity is absent or very limited.



The purpose of this activity is that children recognize the importance of words within a context. It is about presenting a paragraph so every child can cut out what he thinks is unnecessary, without changing the meaning of the text.


The activity is directed to children in the last years of primary school or the first years of secondary school. The number of children should not be too high, because every participants will have to write and read his own text.


  • To reach a good understanding of written language
  • To value the esthetic quality of the text
  • To give importance to the way of expressing an idea


Once the story is read or told, every child will be assigned a different paragraph. Each one should then assume the role of a writer who has been asked to summarize his text. A time limit of 15 to 20 minutes is set. Afterwards, the participants should read the original paragraph and their own version. The others should give their opinion about which work they prefer and why.


It can range from 50 minutes to one and a half hours; it all depends on the size of the group and the diversity of opinions produced by reading the text.


The purpose of this game is to find a new title for the story.


It usually works well with children from eleven years old. It is best when the group is not larger that 15 participants.


  • To understand a story in depth.
  • To communicate and defend an own idea.
  • To think about what was read or heard.
  • To participate by voting.


The participants can know or not the true title of the story. If they know it, it will be discuss whether the title is appropriate or not, and why. Other options will be considered.

The children will be given paper to write down a new title, once they have read or heard the story. As they give new possible titles, they will be written on the board. Finally children will vote for the two or three favorite ones, also based on the reasons they have presented.


The session can be extended indefinitely at the moment of voting. The interventions can be controlled so everyone can be heard.


There are children’s books authors that put a lot of emphasis on imagination in their story, and make up words. This activity is about discovering in a book the words created by the author and figuring out the intended meaning for each of them.


There is no age limit, but in this case the size of the group is important; it shouldn’t exceed 10 to 12 children.


  • To figure out the meaning of words in their context.
  • To develop curiosity and attention.
  • To discover imagination in the written language.


It is necessary to have a board or flip chart where one can write the new words that appear. The narrator or storyteller tell the children that throughout the story there will be new or created concepts.

At the end of the story the children say the new words they can remember. The words are written in the board, leaving some space to write on the side and explain them. The activity can be complemented choosing more usual words that could be used to replace the new ones.

When children say common words, these should also be written and discussed, looking for possible synonyms. To end the activity one can talk a bit about which words are more meaningful or beautiful, etc.


This will be determined by the mental alertness of the children and the number of words found. One hour could be a good average.


The purpose of this strategy is to find the main and secondary characters of the story.


Children from 8 to 10 years. Twenty to twenty five participants as the limit.


  • To understand a story that was read or told.
  • To encourage the selective selection of information within a story.
  • To exercise the memory.


There can be two ways of carrying out the activity:

1st. Giving every child a list with the name of the characters he needs to find.

2nd. Writing the list of characters in the board or in a flip chart.

The game is about introducing the children to a list of characters that are in the story and others that are created just to distract them. Children should be given some time to read the list of characters. The story is read. After reading it, one asks them which characters from their list are in the story and which are not. One can also asks them to describe the passage or moment in which the character appears on the story.

The only condition for the activity is to choose a story with a minimum of 6 to 8 characters.


It is possible that the activity last about 50 minutes; this will depend on the number of interventions by the children and the amount of characters of the story.


This is an activity to use with small children. It is about identifying, when hearing the story for a second time, the mistakes that the reader or storyteller makes; it can also be called “you are wrong” because of the phrase children will use when they have discovered the mistake.

Small children that cannot read yet.

Objectives (for the child)

  • To get used to hearing
  • To pay attention to out loud reading
  • Understand what they hear


Once the children are gathered together, the person reads or tells the story, slowly. After some time he tells the children he will read the story again, and that if he makes a mistake, they need to say “You are wrong!”. Read or tell the story a second time, changing names and situations.


Is it recommended not to make it longer than half an hour. It is important to find a short story.


We have chosen certain strategies that the teacher can use with groups of children in order to make the most of the reading or presentation of a story.

These can be simple exercises to check how much of the story can the children recall or also activities to do a literary or content analysis. The participants, objectives, necessary materials, time and techniques have been defined and suggestive titles have been chosen. They are not rigid steps to follow: only guidelines. These are simply models; the activities can be changed and adapted according to the needs of the students and the creativity of the teacher.

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