Serve and Return: Child Responsive Caregiving

Research shows that by paying close attention to your child’s signals and cues, getting to know their interests, and responding to the different ways they communicate is crucial for healthy brain development. A bit like a lively game of tennis, ‘serve and return’ interactions can really help your child to learn and grow (Harvard University: Centre on the Developing Child).


A smiling child holds a tennis ballHow will this promote my child’s learning and development?

Children are ready from birth to form social relationships with their caregivers. Responding to your child will encourage more communication and helps promote speech and language development. The back and forth interaction develops social skills and the ability to control their own behaviour; this will help your child to feel secure, form relationships and feel happy and good about themselves.

Helping children to follow their interests is motivating, exciting, helps them to expand thinking, explore ideas and develop problem solving skills. Children really enjoy the attention and lots of ‘serve and return’ interactions will help prepare your child for more formal learning in the future.

Top Tips

  • Respond to your child when they communicate; when they babble, coo, giggle, look at things, point, use single words and start to form sentences
  • Respond using eye contact, facial expressions, body language, repeating what your child says or extending their ideas
  • Give your child choices and try to plan activities around their interests.