Harvard University’s Center on the Developing Child specializes in research from the ages of 0-3. One of their key areas of studies is Serve and Return interactions. When a child cries out, babbles, or otherwise engages another person, the way in which they are responded to can set the trajectory for their personality and understanding. So, does this mean if you don’t immediately respond in the correct way to your whimpering child that you’ve damaged them for life? Thankfully, no. There are some interesting dynamics to consider, though.


Here are some key questions the researches at Harvard answer:

Q: Will occasional lapses in attention from adults harm a child’s development?

A: Probably not. If diminished attention occurs on an intermittent basis in an otherwise loving and responsive environment, there is no need for concern. Indeed, some developmental scientists suggest that variations in adult responsiveness present growth-promoting challenges that may help young children recognize the distinction between “self” and “other,” which is a necessary next step for moving toward greater independence and increasing capacity for self-care and problem-solving.

Q: Are educational toys and multimedia products useful in building healthy brain architecture in young children? 

A: The most important influence on early brain development is the real-life serve and return interaction with caring adults. There are no credible scientific data to support the claim that specialized videos or particular music recordings have a measurable impact on developing brain architecture in the first 2 to 3 years of life. Although a varied array of experiences clearly stimulates learning in the preschool years and beyond, promotional statements about the superior brain-building impacts of expensive “educational” toys and videos for infants and toddlers have no scientific support

In short, human interaction is vastly more effective and meaningful than having the right toys or tools to promote thinking.


“The quality of a child’s early environment and the availability of appropriate experiences at the right stages of development are crucial in determining the strength or weakness of the brain’s architecture, which, in turn, determines how well he or she will be able to think and to regulate emotions.”*


Keeping in the loop with best practices for your child, including Early Education standards and assessments, can go a long way in facilitating their development! Contact a Creative World School near you for access to expert teachers who can coach you through proper development in the early years!

*National Scientific Council on the Developing Child (2007). The Timing and Quality of Early Experiences Combine to Shape Brain Architecture: Working Paper No. 5. Retrieved from www.developingchild.harvard.edu