PARENTS who pay for their child to have extra maths and music lessons in the hope of getting them into a good school may be better off teaching them games like "Simon says", a study claims.
Many parents choose to give their children extra tuition in the hope that boosting skills like maths, reading and music will help them succeed and lay the foundations for academic success.
But researchers say introducing a young child to maths or classical music has much less bearing on their future educational achievements than instilling the values of attention and perseverance.
A study found that children who were better at listening, following instructions and completing a task at the age of four were 50 per cent more likely to have complete an undergraduate university degree by the age of 25.
Child development experts from Oregon State University who conducted the study said that rather than paying for expensive private lessons, parents would be better off teaching their offspring skills like concentration and persistence.
Previous research has shown that children can be taught the ability to listen, pay attention, remember instructions and finish tasks through classroom games like "Simon says" and "grandmother's footsteps".
The study, published in the Early Childhood Research Quarterly journal, followed 430 children from preschool age to adulthood.
Parents were asked a series of questions about their child's ability to pay attention at the age of four, such as whether they play with a single toy for long periods and whether they give up easily when confronted by a problem.
At the age of seven and again at 21, each child's reading and maths ability was tested.
Contrary to researchers' expectations they found that maths and reading ability did not have a significant effect on whether or not students gained a bachelor's degree from university.
But those whose attention span and ability to persist with tasks at the age of four by their parents were almost 50 per cent more likely to have completed an undergraduate course by 25.
Dr Megan McClelland, who led the study, said: "The important factor was being able to focus and persist. Someone can be brilliant, but that doesn't necessarily mean they can focus when they need to and finish a task or job.
"Academic ability carries you a long way, but these other skills are also important ... the ability to listen, pay attention and complete important tasks is crucial for success later in life."