In 2005, psychologists Debora Stipeck and Rachel Valentino from Stanford University looked into the relationship between memory and attention skills in early childhood, and whether these skills were related across time to academic skills such as reading and math comprehension.
They followed 5,873 American children, starting when they were 3 years old and assessing their cognitive skills and school performance six times until they reached 14 years of age. Interestingly, they found that a child’s memory and attention skills during the first four years of life actually predicted academic achievement once the kid started formal education, and this relationship lasted well into late adolescence.
Drawing conclusions from their findings, it appears that the relationship between children’s attention and memory skills was stronger during their preschool years, and that it seemed to become less important as time passed. This means that efforts to develop a child’s attention and memory skills are especially beneficial during elementary school, when a child is first learning to read, write, and use abstract and conceptual thinking. However, once the topics get more specialized in high school and college, this relationship fades into the background and the best predictor of success is learning each subject matter.
Of course, academic success is a very complex topic and can’t be pinpointed to just one or two factors, but this research sheds a light on how the first four years of cognitive development become very handy once a kid starts navigating kindergarten or other school settings.
Some of the most important challenges your child will face when they start school is being able to focus on the teacher, ignore distractions in order to complete activities, and inhibit impulses or behaviors that might be sidetracking for the task at hand. Knowing this, you can give your little one the upper hand right now, even if schools seems still far in the horizon, by stimulating them with activities created specifically to help boost their attention and memory skills.