5 Steps for Brain-Building Serve and Return

How can everyday activities help you build a strong relationship with your child and help grow them into a great reader? The Center of the Developing Child at Harvard University suggests five simple steps for how to practice “serve and return,” which are the back-and-forth interactions that children and caregivers have all the time. These types of interactions play a big role in your child’s confidence and his/her relationship with learning, reading and discovery. Here is a quick breakdown of the five steps:

Step 1: Notice what your child is looking at, pointing to, listening to, etc., and show them that you are paying attention too.

Step 2: “Return the serve” with comforting words and hugs/kind body language that show you care and notice.

Step 3: Name what is going on. Say the name of what your child is doing, what they are eating, what they are looking at, how they are feeling, whom they are talking to, etc.

Step 4: Take turns, making sure to give your child time to think and say something else back to you.

Step 5: Practice and reinforce endings and beginnings of activities, helping your children recognize the start and stop and sequence of events through the day by saying things such as “all done!” or “now we are starting to tie our shoes!”

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