Edition 2 Issue 4


G Haux
Head of Pre-primary

The benefits of playdough are numerous. Children love its soft, squishy texture and they can create anything with it. Perhaps what makes it so appealing is that there is no right or wrong way to do it, so they always experience success. Children learn and build foundational skills through it.

1. Fine Motor Development
Moulding playdough is excellent for developing a child’s fine motor skills. Children need to develop their finger muscles and have proper finger control before they can learn to write.

2. Vocabulary
Their vocabulary increases while chatting to peers during play and through a parent or teacher verbalising what they are doing as they mould. They will learn words such as roll, squeeze, flatten etc.

3. Creativity
Playdough activities require creativity as a child must mould from a mental image. Even if they try to reproduce something they have already seen, theirs will always look different.

4. Literacy and Numeracy
Following a basic recipe for playdough is a great opportunity to teach your child maths by learning about measurement. They read for meaning when reading recipe instructions. Adding small objects such as beads or buttons can provide a great opportunity to learn about number concepts. Playdough is also the perfect medium for learning letters and numbers in a kinaesthetic way.

5. Concentration
Playdough is a quiet activity that requires a child to sit still for periods of time. This helps to increase a child’s concentration span over time.

6. Science Concepts
Through playdough, children are introduced to scientific concepts such as materials and how they change. The texture of playdough can be changed by varying the ingredients or adding water to make it harder, softer, more watery, etc. Other substances such as sand and water can also be mixed and experimented with in a similar way.

7. Therapeutic Value
Playdough is an activity which children always have a positive experience with. The nature of the substance makes it calming to play with. It can reduce stress and is a wonderful medium for an anxious child.

The endless ways of using playdough
Rolling playdough, pinching, cutting, using cookie cutters, modelling, creating letters or numbers, construction or moulding salt dough

Basic Playdough
This is a very basic, quick dough.
1 cup water
6 cups flour
1 cup vegetable oil
Food colouring

Mix a drop or two of food colouring into the water and add the flour and vegetable oil. Knead until the mixture is smooth. Store in the refrigerator in a sealed container.

Basic Salt Dough
2 cups flour
1 cup of water
1/2 cup salt
2 teaspoons oil
2 teaspoons food colouring

Mix the ingredients together, adding the water slowly until the mixture is smooth. Store in a sealed container.

Source: https://empoweredparents.co/7-benefits-of-playdough-in-early-childhood/uploads20170406C2_S6_Playdough_Reward.pdf


L Stegen
Head of Foundation Phase

Pre-schoolers can become readers, and with the right help, school-age children can improve their reading skills. If children struggle with word recognition, the comprehension of a texts in all subjects will be negatively affected. Reading skills must be developed to the point that most of them are automatic.

Parents can and should play a role in developing an interest in reading and in encouraging growth in reading skills. Research shows that children can learn to read before starting school. Through observation, children see people reading books, maps etc. This could inspire the little ones to read.

When you read to your pre-schooler, point to the words with your finger. This procedure is simple and helps children notice words and realise that words have meaning. They are made aware that one reads from left to right and from the top to the bottom of the page and that sentences are made up of words.

Usually, children learn to read from Grade 1 to 3. This process continues. For some it is more challenging than for others. Although introductory reading skills can be initiated during pre-school years, actual reading should not be over-emphasized.

Reading should be for pleasure and information. This will develop reading interests and offer children the opportunity to practice their reading skills. By encouraging and modelling leisure time reading in the home, parents help develop children’s reading skills.

Reading and writing are complementary skills. The child who reads well also has good creative and comprehension skills.

Read often to your child, even if your child is old enough to read himself. It is good for children to hear good reading from an established reader. The rhythm, intonation, fluency and other reading skills are all very important. Provide different books, some for reading enjoyment and some with information about hobbies and interesting facts, reading recipes or directions for making something. Make a specific reading time, even if it is just 10 minutes a day. Write something on paper to your child and ask for a written response. The older children in the home can read to younger siblings. Make time when the whole family sit together, read, and share interesting facts. Be a parent who encourages reading. Of course, it is vital to provide guidance in the books your children read or look at.

Source: www.readingrockets.org


E Gouws
Head of Intermediate Phase

A few studies done during the first year of the pandemic have confirmed that an unfortunate, consequence of living in quarantine for many kids is feeling scared, lonely, anxious, clingy, depressed, and even suicidal. 

The ongoing global coronavirus pandemic has claimed 3 million lives so far as well as sickening millions more. It has disrupted our daily lives, opening and shutting schools and businesses and devastating economies, however, the impact that this crisis is having on the mental health of children is getting less attention. Childhood depression is on the rise. Prolonged quarantining poses mental health risks for children—the impact of this may be felt already after 10 days.

Childhood depression was already on the rise before this pandemic, with as many as 8% to 10% of teens and 3% of children affected, according to the American Academy of Paediatrics (AAP). These rates are increasing during the pandemic. The AAP also notes that around 75% of adolescents with depression are misdiagnosed, which underlines the urgency for parents to watch for the signs of this condition.

Depression often displays differently in young children and adolescents than in adults. They tend to keep their feelings to themselves which complicates correct diagnosis. Signs and symptoms of depression in children may include the following:

  • Anger and/or aggression
  • Apathy for or refusal to participate in school, often accompanied by a decline in performance
  • Behavioural changes
  • Complaining of stomach pain, headache, or general malaise
  • Decrease in physical activity
  • Decrease or increase in appetite, which may be accompanied by weight gain or loss
  • Defiance or hostility, which studies show may be a child’s way of expressing worry or distress
  • Difficulty with concentration and/or executive function
  • Difficulty with sleep, including trouble falling and staying asleep, sleeping too much, and/or not sleeping enough
  • Feeling burned-out
  • Feeling sad or hopeless
  • Feelings of grief
  • Feelings of guilt
  • Indecisiveness
  • Low self-esteem and/or self-doubt
  • Reduced interest in activities or hobbies they used to enjoy
  • Running away from home or threatening or planning to do so
  • Social withdrawal from friends and/or family
  • Suicidal ideation, talking about death or dying, self-harm, and/or giving away possessions

It is unlikely that all the symptoms listed will be present.

Many children have had their lives uprooted, their social lives severely restricted, and their physical activity decreased. Some children are coping with the illness or loss of a loved one and/or the fear of getting sick. Their parents may be out of work, there may be food shortages and/or they may be at risk of being evicted.

With so much out of our control and so many unknowns, it is not easy to protect your child from becoming ‘down’. The best thing you can do is to simply be present and familiar with your child’s needs and moods.

You cannot inoculate your child from the circumstances resulting from the pandemic, but you can provide kind, compassionate support, and get them whatever help they need.

Source: https://www.verywellfamily.com


D van Straten
Head of Senior Phase

In the previous edition of the Academicus, the concept nano-learning was briefly introduced. The April edition aims to build on this and to conclude that nano-learning has the potential to revolutionise teaching and learning, but only if such learning is accompanied by accurate processing.

Although nano-learning has the potential to make learning more effective by reducing content, nanonising in itself cannot achieve this goal. Whether presented in bulk or in reduced amounts, content will remain meaningless if not processed accurately.

This is not only a phenomenon that is applicable in the classroom. As parents, we may find that we sometimes tell a child to carry out a task only to find that the task was not carried out correctly, or not done at all. Given the hopeful assumption that stubbornness and disobedience is not at work, unwanted outcomes could be the result of the inaccurate processing of instructions. Given the validity of this fact, as a parent I should take time to communicate instructions clearly and make sure that my child understands what must be done.

From an academic perspective, parents should in the first place encourage their children to reduce the content that they cover in class on a regular basis. However, this is only the first step in improving academic success; the reduced content also has to be processed. Accurate processing by learners require careful thought and parents could assist younger children in various ways.

Next time, when your child asks you to test them on the content that they have to master for a test, assist your child to process the content accurately. Here are a few basic ideas:

  • Ask your child to read the content that needs to be learnt for a test and then to relate the content in their own words.
  • Encourage your child to draw mind maps, to make summaries and/or to draw picture representations of the work they must study, and to explain to you what they have done.
  • Children could also be asked to study the content and to phrase their own questions, based on the content.

Reducing the amount of work that has to be learnt will make content more manageable. Giving thought to the accurate processing of information should assist children with understanding what they learn.


J Sibeko
Head of FET Phase

It should come as no surprise that success or failure at school starts at home. Studies have linked poor academic performance to factors such as a lack of sleep, poor nutrition, obesity and a lack of parental support. (Healthy children Magazine. Back to school 2007)

While the intake of food is vital for proper performance, many of the widely available and popular food in schools today are hindering children’s abilities to learn.

Loaded with sugars, caffeine, chemicals and sodium, many popular menu items leave children tired, unfocused, jittery, and sick which not only impact their grades and performance, but also influence their behaviour and moods.

Lack of Energy and Focus
According to the Society for Neuroscience, recent studies reveal that diets with high levels of saturated fats impair learning and memory. Unfortunately, food with saturated fats is often the most affordable.

Fries, sugary desserts, cheeseburgers, chicken nuggets, and other fast foods fill children with food that lowers their brain power before sending them back to class.

A Plan at Home
To promote healthy eating and brain function outside of school, parents should provide their children with smaller meals and snacks every three to four hours.

Healthy meals and snacks should consist of natural fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins, such as chicken, fish, nuts, and eggs.

Likewise, improved nutrition has the potential to positively influence children’s academic performance and behaviour. Good nutrition helps students show up at school prepared to learn.

(Lieberman, H.(2003). Nutrition, brain function, and cognitive performance. Appetite, 40, 245-254.)


A du Preez
Head of Academics

We live in a world of due dates and deadlines. Although these are often experienced as threats, they could assist in reaching goals successfully.

If a child is asked to sweeping a vast area, he might simply stand there staring at the mammoth job. The child with a vision, though, might take the initiative to divide the area into smaller sections, set time limits per section, and work out the starting point as well as the direction in which he will sweep. In this example, steady progress and successful completion of the task will not be the only outcome, but the job will also be done with pleasure and pride, because success in each section he completes, already breeds success for the next section.

The same principle can be applied when studying. It is an excellent opportunity for teachers and parents alike to teach our children to break down large tasks into manageable sections with specific time limits. Learners often tend to leave even large homework tasks assigned a week earlier, for the afternoon (or even night!) before it must be submitted. Children naturally experience this as ‘homework overload’ and can sometimes become quite vocal about it.

The following steps will help to motivate children and streamline the work:

  • Remove all possible distractions, including digital devices and screens.
  • Divide the work into sections according to the available time.
  • Write down what must be completed each day and remember that it is important to be specific, for example, ‘’Science Textbook p.16 to 18 and create a summary diagram’’. (just ‘Science’ would not help much).
  • Stick to the planning and tick off each section when completed. There is truth in the saying, ‘’What gets measured, gets done.”

In this way, a child will learn more in less time – and even more importantly, he will find joy in being a real student and manage time and tasks well.

Source: https://daniel-wong.com