5 Steps for Brain-Building Serve and Return

Did you know that you can help build a child’s brain – starting even before babies can talk? Simple “serve and return” interactions between adults and young children help make strong connections in developing brains. And, it’s easy and fun to do! This how-to video breaks down serve and return into 5 simple steps and features adults and young children doing each step together.


Child-adult relationships that are responsive and attentive—with lots of back and forth interactions—build a strong foundation in a child’s brain for all future learning and development. Follow these five steps to practice serve and return with the children in your life:

  1. Notice the serve and share the child’s focus of attention.
  2. Return the serve by supporting and encouraging.
  3. Give it a name!
  4. Take turns…and wait. Keep the interaction going back and forth.
  5. Practice endings and beginnings.

To learn more about serve and return, including the science behind it, visit https://developingchild.harvard.edu/resources/how-to-5-steps-for-brain-building-serve-and-return/

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