- Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University - https://developingchild.harvard.edu -

Serve and Return

This how-to video breaks down serve and return into 5 simple steps [1] and features adults and young children doing each step together.

Serve and return interactions shape brain architecture [2]. When an infant or young child babbles, gestures, or cries, and an adult responds appropriately with eye contact, words, or a hug, neural connections are built and strengthened in the child’s brain that support the development of communication and social skills. Much like a lively game of tennis, volleyball, or Ping-Pong, this back-and-forth is both fun and capacity-building [3]. When caregivers are sensitive and responsive to a young child’s signals and needs, they provide an environment rich in serve and return experiences.