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Mother and Daughter Communicating


Connection is hard-wired into humans and is present from birth. For babies to build a strong, positive, nurturing relationship, caregivers tune in to the cues of their baby and respond. This is what makes up serve and return interactions. Baby smiles, parent smiles back. Baby coos, caregiver coos back. Baby covers their eyes, and parent joins in a game of peak-a-boo. These are the little interactions that go on hundreds of times every day that give the baby a foundation of trust and confidence to build on for the rest of life. Through warm and predictable back and forth interactions babies learn how to interact with the world around them.


Serve and return can happen every time you interact with your baby. Whether it be in special moments of reading and singing together, or in everyday moments at mealtime, diaper changes, pick-up, and drop-off. First, tune in and be present when you are with your baby. Pay attention to what your child is focused on and use this as a starting point for a serve and return interaction. Talk about what it is that has your child’s attention, then pause and look at them. Observe their face and behavior as they react to your attention, maybe they will smile and look up to you, maybe make a sound of their own. After giving them time to respond, and listening to what your baby has to say, respond back and keep the interaction going. Even though your baby may not be using words to communicate, taking turns and listening like you would in an adult conversation is important, and shows your baby that you are present with them.


Regardless of if your child is a baby cooing and babbling, or if they’re a toddler with a handful of words or small sentences, serve and return interactions help build the relationship between you and your little one. Below are some fun videos showing serve and return interactions. How can you make these special moments happen in your home?

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