Interactions and Relationships Build Early Childhood Development

interactionsChildren grow up in an environment of relationships and experiences that literally build the brain. Forming strong brain architecture depends on something called “serve and return” interaction with adults, like in a game of volleyball. A young child’s gesture, babble or coo is the serve to an adult, who then returns by responding in meaningful ways.

This “serve and return” helps create the neural connections among all the different areas of the brain. For example, when a baby points to an object, such as a tree, and an adult responds by saying “tree,” this serve and return process wires the brain with essential foundational skills. Later, if a child points at a picture of a tree in a book, and an adult responds by saying “tree,” the child comes to understand the connection between the trees she sees and how trees are represented in words and pictures.

More complex skills, such as understanding written words on a page, are built on more basic skills such as naming an object. Ensuring that all children have adult caregivers who consistently engage in serve and return interactions builds the foundation in the brain for all the learning, behavior and health that follow.

Executive Function Skills

Self-control/self-regulation and working memory–the ability to hold and work with information, stay focused despite distractions, and “switch gears”—-are brain functions that begin to develop in early childhood. Children aren’t born with these skills—they are born with the potential to develop them and their success depends on relationships and interactions. New evidence has identified these skills  as essential for school achievement, success in work, and healthy lives.

Please follow the work of the Maine Children’s Growth Council to find out how you can help lay the foundation for your child and for Maine’s future. Contact us today for more information.

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