Long before they can talk, your baby begins conversations with you. By responding back and forth you can help their brain development.

A baby’s brains develop fastest in the early years of life – from birth until the ages of two or three, more than a million neural connections are made each second.

By picking up on your baby's cues and interacting back and forth with them – as though playing a game of tennis - you can help their brain to develop. This could include copying gestures, gaze, sounds or facial expressions, and giving names to what they are doing or looking at.

Watch this short video to discover how you, and other loved ones, can use this 'serve and return' approach to help your baby's brain to build:

Video Transcript:

As soon as your baby is born, they're able to begin conversations with you.

By picking up on their cues and responding, you will help their brain development.

Think of it like a game of tennis.

A baby ‘serves’ by reaching out to you or doing something to connect with the world – this might be eye contact, facial expressions or gestures. 

Return the serve by following their focus, copying their gestures, giving names to what they are doing or looking at.

When your baby responds, respond back.

Just as good rallies between tennis players help develop their game, good rallies between an adult and baby help develop cognitive and social abilities.

Your baby is learning that what they have to say is important.

These moments of connection, they release feel-good hormones in your baby, helping them to feel loved and understood.

Continue ‘serve and return’ interactions as your child  - and their brain – grows.

Further resources:

  • Getting to know your baby videos on AIMH
  • BBC Tiny Happy People gives details of each stage of your baby’s development throughout their first year.
  • Brazelton Centre have great resources on understanding your baby’s behaviour and communication

Further support:

For every parent, the transition to parenthood, whether for a first baby, or for subsequent births, brings with it a range of feelings – excitement and hopes, as well as fears and worries, about what might lie ahead.

The practical and psychological adjustments take time to navigate, and these important changes in our lives can stir up powerful emotions from a parents own early experiences.

Research tells us that more than 1 in 10 mums and around 1 in 10 dads will experience a mental health problem during pregnancy or in the first years. Many of these difficulties go unseen, undiagnosed, or untreated. It is important to seek help and support if you or your partner is struggling.

You can speak to your GP or Health Visitor.

You can also find some additional information, advice and further signposting from these organisations: 

Crisis Support:

If you or someone you care about is in crisis or feeling suicidal and needs urgent help you can access support in the following ways:

  • Go to A&E at your local hospital
  • Phone emergency services on 999
  • Call Samaritans on 116 123 (free to call and will not appear on your phone bill), or email [email protected]

 More Home-Start Tips for Parents and Support for Families