They are arguably one of the least-liked foodstuffs to grace our kitchens. When was the last time you saw a box of Raisinettes and didn't sadly think, "My God, have I just traveled back to my great grandparents' time to when this was actually the best candy available?" Hell, even the Gumby-esque California Raisins and their kooky, crazy rocking actually contributed to a loss in raisin sales, once all things were said and done.
Which brings us to the larger point: The lowly raisin may finally be having its glorious day in the gilded sun. Intrepid researchers from the University of Warwick have discovered that by using only a raisin and a cup, they can glean how a toddler will function academically at the age of eight.
The researchers gave participating toddlers under the age of 20 months a cup with a raisin inside it and asked them to wait a mere 60 seconds before they reached for and ate the raisin. They found out a lot from this simple test.
The study, entitled "Preterm 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. Conducted by a bunch of scientists from the University of Warwick in the UK, it found that toddlers who were born very prematurely tended to grab the raisin before the 60 seconds were up. In a follow-up study performed when the toddlers had reached eight years of age, the researchers found that the raisin grabbers weren't performing as well in school as their full-term peers—i.e., the kids who could wait for the raisin.
During the study, 558 German children, born at 25 weeks' gestation (very premature) to 41 weeks' gestation (full-term) were examined. The assessments took place when the children were 20 months old and then again when they were eight years old. Those born preterm, at 25 to 38 weeks of gestation, were compared to those born at full term, at 39 to 41 weeks.
The second assessment of the kids at age eight had nothing to do with raisins, or cups for that matter. It looked at three different behavior ratings of attention as well as academic achievement in mathematics, reading, spelling, and writing.
The results? The lower the gestational age, the lower the toddler's ability to control himself or herself. And that inability to control translated later into poor attention and low academic achievement. In other words, the tots screaming "Gimme the raisin!" were in for many years of scholastic misery.
The researchers are pretty pleased that the new test can be used to identify cognitive and attention problems early, enabling children to be given early interventions that may help them out later on.
And it all begins with a raisin in a cup. Now if only we could find a Professor X-like figure to assemble a modern rendition of the California Raisins, then we'd really have something going.