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7 Pathways to early learning success

Hilary Gan is a professional SAT tutor and a contributing writer for Varsity Tutors. She holds an MFA in creative writing from the University of Arizona.

The earliest stages of learning are often the most important. Get your child on the right academic track now with these seven strategies.

mother studying with son at computer

Photo credit: Robert Daly/OJO Images/Getty Images

Some studies suggest that students enrolled in programs like standards-aligned preschools are more likely to graduate from high school and less likely to require grade retention or special education services. Parent involvement can also pay dividends. Here are seven ways to support your child as he or she begins his or her academic career:

1. Understand and support the stages of brain development

Between ages 0 and 3, a child's brain grows from 25 to 80 percent of its adult size. This period sets the stage for innumerable cognitive abilities including abstraction, categorization, language and mathematics literacy and reasoning. Asking open-ended questions, exploring new locations, playing counting and searching games and reading stories are all wonderful ways to support this critical phase.

2. Cultivate a secure attachment style

Attachment style refers to the manner in which children form a connection with their primary caregiver. Secure attachments can lead to healthier relationships later in life, as well as help children develop empathy. Securely attached young children are confident discovering information independently, but they still seek and receive reassurance during the process. Allowing your student appropriate spaces to explore, while also offering support, contributes to the development of positive emotional states.

3. Choose the right preschool, if applicable

Because early learning is so crucial to later academic and social success, it is important to select a program where your child feels comfortable and safe, as well as an environment where he or she enjoys learning. Ask questions in your community, read online reviews and, if possible, become familiar with common educational approaches. For example, certain schools offer student-centered perspectives that may suit your child particularly well.

4. Strengthen physical abilities

The coordination and motor skills of young children benefit from special attention, and they can contribute to meaningful learning experiences and future health. Sports like martial arts, soccer and even yoga can build synapses and strengthen the muscles needed for physical success, and they can help channel your student's boundless energy.

5. Foster self-confidence

Comforting children when they fail, as well as encouraging their hard work and earnest attempts at learning and playing, helps create confidence that your student will need in the future. One study showed that children who were praised for working hard enjoyed learning more than children who were praised for being intelligent.

6. Build social skills

The ability to play with other children and adults can help teach students social skills, one of the "soft" skills that correlate with academic success. As children learn to make friends and encounter the needs and wants of others, they build effective communication skills. When conflicts arise, children learn to express their own negative emotions, listen to others' feelings, and offer solutions and apologies; they will thus be much better equipped to handle conflict as adults.

7. Utilize your community

Although primary caregivers are central to a child's life, they cannot do everything. Get in touch with the people around you who have skills or knowledge that you do not, and introduce them to your student. Contact your artist aunt, your best friend the oceanographer, your animal-loving neighbor, and so on. Your child will benefit from new and surprising information and experiences, and you will have crucial support in teaching your child.

For more tips and strategies to help your student succeed in school, visit www.varsitytutors.com.

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