Better Beginnings

The proud parent of most any high school valedictorian has surely been asked about the secret to his or her educational success. From Mozart in the womb to vocabulary flashcards before kindergarten, that perfect GPA may have been the end road of myriad paths. For several Purdue University researchers, particularly those from the Department of Human Development and Family Studies, the exploration in early learning is about seeking the smarter starts that can pay lifelong dividends.

Though there’s not one magical formula to transform today’s toddlers into the Renaissance thinkers of 2035, there is much research that points to the benefits of building the skills of self-control and focus, and learning built on play, adult modeling and a supportive environment. As parents hope to unleash their offspring’s full potential, an effective interaction of these elements is critical in the foundational work for any of the good things to come.

Throughout the College of Health and Human Sciences, faculty researchers are now understanding more about how children learn. Their work, increasingly cross-disciplinary, continues to shape the future of early care and education. Longitudinal studies explore how the best-equipped child care environments with enthusiastic teachers can lead to better scores on standardized tests in third grade. They discover the interactive teaching strategies that can help override the disadvantages of lower socio-economics. And they’re designing new curricula that could lead to those desired outcomes.

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