A simple "raisin test" given to toddlers may help to identify children who are at risk of falling behind in school at the age of eight, scientists have said.
In the test, the toddlers are shown a raisin placed beneath a clear plastic cup. They are then asked not to take it before they are told they can.
Researchers found that toddlers who took the raisin before the allotted time of one minute had passed were more likely to have problems in school later on. They also found that children who had been born prematurely were more likely to take the raisin.
Being able to identify cognitive problems early on could help teachers to give children the support they need to prevent them falling behind, say the researchers, from the University of Warwick.
Professor Dieter Wolke, one of the co-authors of the study, said: “An easy, five-minute raisin game task represents a promising new tool for follow-up assessments to predict attention regulation and learning in pre-term and term-born children.
“The results also point to potential innovative avenues to early intervention after pre-term birth.”
Julia Jaekel, lead author of the study and also assistant professor of child and family studies at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, in the US, said: “This new finding is a key piece in the puzzle of long-term underachievement after pre-term birth”.
The study used data collected on 558 children born in Germany in 1985. They were assessed for self-control at 20 months and this was analysed against their academic performance at age eight.
The study, Pre-term Toddlers’ Inhibitory Control Abilities Predict Attention Regulation and Academic Achievement at Age 8 Years, will be published in the November issue of The Journal of Pediatrics.