Serve and Return Interactions

A strategy for building responsive and attentive relationships between caregivers and young children


Responsive, sensitive relationships between adults and children allow children to learn and develop across all areas. Serve and Return Interactions help caregivers connect by noticing and responding to a child’s needs and interests. As a result, the child feels confident to explore their world because they see their caregiver as a source of support and comfort.


Hallmarks of This Strategy

Focus on the child

Children feel connected and understood when we share their focus and respond to their needs and interests.

Follow the child's lead

When we allow children to lead, we help build their confidence and curiosity.

Practice every day

We can practice serve and return interactions anytime, anywhere.


5 Steps for Brain-Building Serve and Return Interactions

Simple interactions between adults and young children help make strong connections in developing brains. And, it’s easy and fun to do! Developed by Harvard University’s Center on the Developing Child, this video shares 5 simple steps to maximize your use of serve and return interactions.


Why Serve and Return Interactions Matter

Why are serve and return interactions so important for healthy development? In this short video, we see how early interactions between adults and children shape brain architecture, setting the foundation for future development.


Additional Resources

5 Steps for Brain-Building Serve and Returns

A short two-page explainer to continue learning about this strategy

5 Steps for Brain-Building Serve and Returns (Español)

Un documento breve de 2 páginas para continuar aprendiendo sobre esta estrategia

Resources presented on this page are developed by Harvard University's Center on the Developing Child. To learn more, visit their comprehensive guide on serve and return interactions.