childcare professional, teacher or coach)
responds sensitively with the “return.”
“An attentive response is critical to
young children,” says Melanie Berry, a
researcher with the University of Oregon
and Oregon Social Learning Center,
“because serve and return promotes
Berry helps Oregon parents
understand serve and return with the
FIND (filming interaction to nurture
development) program. Created by Phil
Fisher at the University of Oregon, FIND
breaks down serve and return into five
You notice what your child is interestedin: a thing, a feeling, a person or anaction. You show your interest with youreyes, body, words and actions. Berry saysthis is a critical first step: “Lots of thingscan get in the way of this in families.
Parents can be tired, ill or distracted.“
She adds: “Children don’t need you
to respond to every serve they make—
even the best player doesn’t return
every serve. But children need enough
Her advice? Find a moment and build
Supporting and encouraging
After noticing your child, you supportand encourage her. For example, if she’sholding her sippy cup, you help her geta drink. Or if your toddler is trying tostack blocks, you guide her hands andsay “good job” when the job is done.
Giving a word to the focus of yourchild’s attention: doggy, grandma, cupor apple. You can also name actions:your sister is running. Berry says it’s alsoimportant to name feelings: “Do you likethat bread?” or “Are you tired? Sleepy?
Sad?” The older your child, the richer thenaming can be.
This type of serve-and-return exchangehelps with language and emotionalregulation and is good for yourrelationship with your child because itsays “I see you and I hear you.” And thishelps your child feel safe, valued andcared for.
Back and forth
When serve and return turns intoback-and-forth exchanges, “this iswhere the real action is,” says Berry. Avolley of serve and return helps yourchild learn to control his impulses, payattention and control his emotions.
She says it’s important to wait for yourchild to respond each time. “Adults cansometimes return, return, return. Toomuch return and your child can loseinterest.”
Endings and beginnings
These are the cues your child gives tosignal her attention has shifted andthe exchange is over. Understandingyour child’s cues is important becausewhen she’s interested, she will learnmore. “Endings and beginnings arevery subtle with babies,” Berry says.
“With two-year-olds, they just toddleoff so you know they’re done.” Berrysays when you can understand yourchild’s signals it can help your day gofrom activity to activity more smoothly.
For more about serve and return, visitHealthyParentsHealthyChildren.ca. |a
An attentive response
is critical to young
CHILDREN DEVELOPAND LEARN THROUGHSERVE AND RETURN
When parents and other caregivers
respond sensitively to a child, the
child is surrounded by positive
take place throughout our lives,
but are critical in early childhood
because they’re the building
blocks for a healthy brain, says
Dr. Carole-Anne Hapchyn, an infant
psychiatrist with Child, Adolescent
and Family Mental Health in
Edmonton. “The quality of that
back and forth connectedness
builds a baby’s brain,” she says.
This is known as brainarchitecture. Children also needserve-and-return exchanges tohelp them learn how to:
• Regulate their emotions
• Develop language and grossmotor skills (such as learning tosit, stand and walk)
• Develop fine motor skills (suchas learning to hold a pencil andtie shoes).
When you soothe and calm achild through serve-and-returninteractions, he also learns acritical life lesson—relationshipsand connections with others areessential.
Without caring and nurturingserve-and-return exchanges, thearchitecture of the brain can beaffected, as these experiences playa vital role in how a child learns,feels and behaves, as well as hisoverall health and relationshipswith others.