Supportive Relationships and Brain Development
I love brain science. I am fascinated with the research and findings that have been discovered in the past several years regarding the developing brain. One of my favorite sources of information is the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University. This is one of the online sites I explore as I deepen my understanding of young children’s growth, development and learning. The most valuable knowledge I’ve discovered is the connection between Supportive Relationships and healthy brain development. It informs my work with children, families, and early childhood care teachers.
It all starts with the phrase, “Relationships are the foundations for learning.” It begins in infancy, continues to develop in early childhood and beyond, and is centered around adult interactions with children. As the Center on the Developing Child so eloquently explains, “An ‘environment of relationships’ is crucial for the development of a child’s brain architecture, which lays the foundation for later outcomes such as academic performance, mental health, and interpersonal skills.”
How we interact with and engage the children in our lives is vital to our children’s development in many areas. When we are curious about what a child needs, what they are working on learning, and what they are trying to communicate when they express certain behaviors, we can more effectively support them in their development. I think a good place to start with understanding this is the concept of “SERVE AND RETURN” interactions. It is the back and forth exchange between a child and an adult caregiver, the child serves, the adult returns. Most of us have done this, without even thinking about it, like when a baby finds out that they can make sounds, or spits a raspberry, and we imitate their sound.
The most amazing thing happens when we can get intentional about the serve and return interaction. When we recognize a baby’s cues, see the cues as an invitation to engage them in interaction, and then respond appropriately with eye contact, words, and affection, we are building that child’s brain and supporting the development of communication and social skills. This is the foundation for all other learning. When a child feels safe and valued, they are more likely to try new things and develop the confidence to explore and learn in a more profound way.
As I’ve mentioned, I love brain science, and I get excited about sharing the information that has supported my own growth in the early childhood field. Here are a couple of videos that go deeper into Serve and Return Interactions. I hope you find the subject as fascinating as I do.
Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University: 5 Steps Serve and Return