Poor Retention in Children

By Carly Seifert
Certain foods may help improve your child's memory.
Certain foods may help improve your child's memory.

Your child's working memory is the ability to retain information in his head and manipulate it. If he is underachieving in school because he has an inability to follow the teacher's directions and remember instruction received in the classroom, he may be suffering from poor retention, or a weak working memory. Your child's working memory can be improved when you and his teacher implement strategies at home and in the classroom.


There is a variety of possible reasons for poor retention in your child. The lack of a healthy diet and poor concentration skills contribute to a weak memory. More serious underlying reasons include depression or anxiety in your child, side effects from certain medications, seizures or brain tumors. If your child is fatigued or suffers from a physical disability, he may also struggle with a weak working memory.

In the Classroom

According to Science Daily, the working memory rating scale will enable your child's teacher to identify whether or not he has a problem with working memory. The test is a checklist formed by several years of research into poor working memory in children, and it allows his teacher to assess his memory capacity in the classroom without subjecting him to a test. If your child has a high score on the checklist, the teacher will need to help maximize your child's potential in the classroom by repeating instructions in short, simple sentences and breaking down tasks for him.

At Home

According to neurologist Dr. Judy Willis, when the brain is stressed, it prevents the information flow to the long-term memory. Before your child sits down to do his homework, allow him time to relax and de-stress, opening up the brain networks that lead to memory storage. Willis also suggests giving your child breaks to allow his brain chemicals to replenish. Every 10 or 15 minutes, give him a chance to stretch or go outside for some fresh air for a few minutes to recharge his brain. A refreshed brain is optimal for new memory storage.

Healthy Habits

Because fatigue and poor nutrition contribute to weak retention, it is important to make sure that your child is getting enough sleep and eating a balanced diet. The Kids Health website states that school-age kids need 10 to 12 hours of sleep a night and that lack of sleep can make it difficult for children to focus at school. Maintain a consistent bedtime and allow your child to have time to unwind before he tucks in. The Jiva Education website suggests giving your child food with antioxidants, such as blueberries, strawberries, spinach, broccoli and red grapes, to boost his memory. Almonds, seeds and grains are also good for memory improvement.

About the Author

Carly Seifert has been a piano instructor since 2001. She has also covered adoption and introducing children to the arts for "Montana Parent Magazine." Seifert graduated from University of California, Irvine with a Bachelor of Arts in drama.