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New Video Breaks Down Serve and Return into 5 Simple Steps

A new how-to video from the Harvard Center on the Developing Child breaks down serve-and-return interactions into five simple steps and features adults and young children doing each step together.

Serve-and-return interactions build babies brains during their earliest years, setting the foundation for their lifelong learning, behavior and health. With practice, serve-and-return becomes second nature, so take moments during the day to serve and return with a young child. You’ll be building skills for their future success and their ability to face life’s challenges.  

  1. Notice the serve and share the child’s focus of attention. By noticing serves, you’ll learn a lot about children’s abilities, interests and needs. You’ll encourage them to explore and you’ll strengthen the bond between you.
  2. Return the serve by supporting and encouraging. Supporting and encouraging rewards a child’s interests and curiosity. Never getting a return can actually be stressful for a child. When you return a serve, children know their thoughts and feelings are heard and understood.  
  3. Give it a name. When you name what children are focused on, you help them understand the world around them and know what to expect. Naming also gives children words to use and lets them know you care.
  4. Take turns…and wait. Keep the interaction going back and forth. Taking turns helps children learn self-control and how to get along with others. By waiting, you give children time to envelope their own ideas and build their confidence and independence. Waiting also helps you understand their needs.
  5. Practice endings and beginnings. When you can find moments for children to take the lead, you support them in exploring their world—and make more serve-and-return interactions possible.

Please take a few minutes to watch this new video.

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