In the earliest years of a child’s life, neural connections in the brain build a foundation for academic and life success. Research explains that what encourages that brain building most is the serve-and-return — when babies cry or babble or gesture, and adults respond with words or hugs or eye contact. The term serve-and-return is used because it’s just like hitting the ball to someone, and then waiting to get it back (and then, of course, sending the ball back yet again). In other words, it’s the personal interaction and back and forth “discussion” that make the difference for babies and toddlers.
Keep that serve-and-return idea in mind when you are with your little ones. You’ll be returning her serve whenever you are:
- Hugging her and making her feel loved when she is crying
- Looking in her eyes and talking back to her when she coos or makes noise
- Explaining aloud when she is looking at or pointing to something/someone
- Confirming and elaborating for her when she says a word or says something that sounds like a word
And you will be serving and waiting for her return whenever you are:
- Singing her songs and then pausing – letting her encourage you to sing more
- Talking to her and then waiting – encouraging her with your eyes as she tries to talk back with whatever sounds or words she knows
- Asking her questions and then waiting – for her gesture, or for her to babble or say what she can in response
- Reading and talking about a book to her, and then waiting – for her to point or talk or show her engagement
So what about all those videos and other products that theoretically promote brain development in the first few years? The data is not there to support buying them. Again, it is the personal interaction that makes all the difference in brain building – it’s the serve-and-return.