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SERVE AND RETURN: Easy Brain Development Activity for Babies and Toddlers

Dad and baby interacting

As parents, we want the best for our children, and that includes helping their brains to develop. Did you know that one of the most important activities you can do to help your baby’s brain to be strong is something called “serve and return”?

Serve and return is a back-and-forth game you play with your child. It's like playing a game of catch, only you’re communicating back and forth instead of using a ball. For example, you start by communicating with your baby with a smile or a wave and wait for them to return it back to you (they smile or wave back to you.)

Scientists have found that when you play serve and return, your baby’s brain gets better at making important connections. It’s like helping their brain to build bridges between different areas so that they make important connections that develop thinking, speaking, and social skills (cognitive, language, and social-emotional skills.)

So, how can you practice serve and return? Here are some tips:

  1. Spend time: When you’re with your baby, put your phone away and give them your full attention.

  2. Watch and join: Look at what your baby does and copy or respond to them. For example, if your baby coos or makes eye contact with you, coo back to them or respond with a smile.

  3. Try different serve and returns: You can play this game in different ways—by talking, singing, playing, or just making fun faces with your baby (see examples below).

  4. Repeat: When your baby reacts to your “serve,” copy back to them how they responded. If your baby coos, you can coo back and then add a new sound or word.

Some easy examples of serve and return activities:

  • Smile or make funny faces.

  • Make different sounds like cooing, humming, laughing, or copying sounds from things like cars, trains, and animals.

  • Clapping your hands or waving to each other (when baby waves, say “Hi, baby!”)

  • Passing blocks back and forth or rolling a ball back and forth.

So, try adding the serve and return activity into your day and have fun while helping to grow your child’s brain. Remember, it's not just about doing this activity a lot, it’s more about having fun and enjoying time with your child.

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1 Comment

3 days ago

I Bennett

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