When you think of “serve” and “return,” a game of tennis or volleyball might be the first image that comes to mind. But for caregivers of young children, serve and return interactions are one of the most important ways adults can help babies and children build language and skills for healthy development.
The good news is that most caregivers often engage in this type of interaction by instinct. When a baby points to a dog while out on a walk, she has served. Her parent might say, “That’s a dog. Woof!” as the return. Although these exchanges are often intuitive, they’re not always easy, such as when babies cry, toddlers tantrum or when parents are under stress.
For the past 10 years, the Filming Interaction to Nurture Development (FIND) program at the Stanford Center on Early Childhood, an initiative of the Stanford Accelerator for Learning, has been going into homes, child care centers and pediatric care settings to observe and record caregiver-child interactions, then coaching adults on how to better nurture those instincts.
During the decade piloting and implementing FIND, research has shown the program has had positive impacts, including increases in supportive interactions and children’s expressive language. Adults also come away with a greater sense of competence in being able to care for children effectively.
But feedback from early childhood educators indicated they wanted a way to distill the FIND method into an affordable professional development program that could reach many child care providers at once.
So this May, FIND launched a pilot of self-paced online courses aimed at providers who want to nurture their serve and return “superpowers.”
Until the end of June, a limited number of free seats are available for Level 1 of FIND-Professional Development, or FIND-PD. Interested early childhood educators are urged to fill out an interest form to secure a spot in the affordable and flexible training series.
Each module takes 10-20 minutes to complete, providing strategies that can be immediately put into practice. The program is designed to build on caregivers’ existing capabilities, and includes reflection questions, prompts and checks to support educators in applying strategies to their daily routines.
Level 2 and beyond will be developed according to the interest of those who participate in the first level, according to Kyndal Yada, FIND Program Manager.
She hopes educators come away with an understanding of how critical the early years are for child development, as well as an understanding of how to use a strengths-based approach to build child skills.
“We hope,” she said, “those who participate in the first level of the FIND-PD series will recognize their own power in supporting young children’s development through serve and return interactions.”
Philip Fisher, faculty director of the early childhood initiative of the Stanford Accelerator for Learning, describes the FIND-PD program.
This story was originally published by the Stanford Center on Early Childhood here.