Brain development depends on "serve and return" interactions

Brain development depends on "serve and return" interactions

There has been a great deal of research in recent years into how the brain develops.  We know that healthy development in the early years provides the building blocks for kids to succeed in school and at work, and leads to better community health and wellness.

We also know that the brain starts with simple circuits that develop into more complex circuits with age and experience. The genes we get from our parents provide the basic blueprint. Our early experiences influence how those genes are expressed to shape learning, health, and behavior down the road.  Positive early experiences are critical for creating a strong brain foundation.

Research shows that one of the most essential experiences for the developing brain is “Serve and Return” interactions between children and their important adults. Young children naturally reach out for interaction through babbling, facial expressions, and gestures.  Adults naturally respond in kind, by vocalizing and gesturing back at children. The child “Serves” with a coo, a babble or a cry. And the adult “Returns” by cooing, babbling or soothing in response. It looks a lot like a tennis match! 

Unfortunately, some things can get in the way of this interaction.  Busy lives, stress, and even our phones or tablets can interrupt this natural process of watching and responding to your child.  So take a breath, and take a moment to “Serve and Return” with your child.  These moments help to create the strong brain foundation your child needs to develop language, thinking, and emotional skills. These small moments will help your child make friends, learn in school, and deal with the stresses of life.

Adapted from Three Core Concepts in Early Development, https://developingchild.harvard.edu/resources/three-core-concepts-in-early-development/.

Thanks to guest blogger Kerry Egan, Early Childhood Inclusive Learning and Wellness Coordinator, Department of Education, Culture and Employment. We asked Kerry to provide a blog in recognition of Universal Children’s Day. And, thanks to Lawrence Norbert, who took the photo at last year’s Tsiigehtchic Wellness Fair.​

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