Psychologist Stephanie Marcy of Children's Hospital Los Angeles says the big push to teach academics in preschool can hurt a child's chances of getting a higher degree.
"Social skills in preschool are probably the more important skill than the academics," Marcy said.
Surprisingly, achievement in reading or math was not a significant predictor of whether a child completed college, the study said. Instead, researchers found parents who rated their kids on having a good attention span and persistence at age 4 had a 50 percent greater chance of getting a bachelor's degree by age 25.
Attention and persistence skills can be taught. Experts say parents need to slow down and stop rushing and give kids time to complete a task. Marcy says toys like blocks and Play-Doh challenge kids, unlike electronic toys that often offer instant gratification.
"What you really want is for them to have a good time and to think that learning stuff is great fun," said Dr. Anita Britt also of Children's Hospital Los Angeles.