Pathways to Wellness

conversation • connection • commitment

It starts with relationships

Babies are born to learn.  Some people describe babies and young children as "sponges" because they just seem to soak in everything that's going on around them.  And it's true that babies are keen observers.  But babies play a much more active role than that – they communicate with adults through sounds and gestures, and try to get their caregiver's attention.  They want to be social!

In fact, it all starts with nurturing relationships – when caregivers attend and respond to a baby's needs.  It's the everyday, minute-by-minute actions and experiences between a baby and their caregivers that promote brain development and build a foundation for the future.  

Through cries, laughs, burps, squirms and even farts, babies communicate to their caregivers.   When we respond by feeding, talking, playing comforting, laughing or holding, we build brains.   This is called "serve and return".  Just like tennis or volleyball.  The baby "serves" with  gestures or sounds and we return their serve by responding to the baby's needs.  This back-and-forth exchange teaches the baby that other people care about them and will meet their needs.  This, in turn,  forms the basis of trust, and sets the stage for future relationships. 


Parents don't always understand what their baby is communicating, but through observation and trial-and-error, most parents figure it out most of the time.   The best way to learn about your baby, and to help your baby learn, is through play.  Here's a video under 2 minutes that shows how you can play with your newborn – this is science in action!


Here is a short booklet by the Canadian Centre of Excellence for Early Childhood Development on how you can help shape your child's brain. 

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