The first 1,000 days.

Scroll down for a selection of videos and other resources about
brain development in the first 1000 days and Serve & Return

Babies are born wired and ready to connect and to learn.  Their brain doubles in size in their first year of life and will be four fifths the size of an adult brain by their third birthday.  In those first thousand days, 80% of neural connections will be made.  The language environment babies experience makes all the difference to their development during this period of tremendous growth. 

Responsive communication will play a vital role in that process.  Here at Talking Matters, we are passionate about sharing the magic of early brain development and the significance of “serve and return”.  Our mission is supporting all the adults in children’s lives to create and sustain the language-rich environments that, literally, build babies’ brains. 

Some of us get really geeky over the science; others view it mostly as a process of human connection and love; some cannot separate matters of culture and identity from the scientific facts.  And all of us are right. 

That’s why we encourage our followers and partners – whānau, professionals, iwi, government – to find the stories and examples of these phenomena that make sense to them and to their communities. 

Here are a few examples of different organisations in different parts of the world (including Aotearoa) making sense of the First 1000 Days and Serve and Return for the communities they’re engaged with.  Check them out and share the messages that resonate with you and your family, community or practice.  There are gaps, of course; we’re keen to explore with others the messages and delivery styles that really ‘speak to’ different audiences. 

The Centre on the Developing Child at Harvard University leads the way in contemporary western understanding of Serve & Return and its role in child development.  This short video is their intro to the concept 

Building Brains, from Moana Research (Aotearoa)

5 Steps to Serve and Return, from Moana Research (Aotearoa)

Thalia Wright talks about serve and return

Our friends at The Education Hub have published an insightful interview with Thalia Wright about Serve & Return (clue: it’s about much more than language).
Thalia Wright is a Specialist Advisor on Child & Family issues and recipient of a Next Foundation Fellowship to investigate how 'serve and return' could be put at the centre of the care and protection of whānau and babies in the first 1000 days.

The Education Hub is a resource for educators – bridging the gap between education research and the realities of teaching practice.

How every child can thrive by five

A Ted Talk by Molly Wright (age 7)

In collaboration with Minderoo Foundation (Australia)

Responsive relationships build strong brains, from NSPCC (UK)

Communication Development Tip: Serve and Return, from Pathways (Illinois, USA)

Getting the Brain You Need for the World You Find Yourself In

Why Early Brain Development Matters, by Sue Younger for Brainwave (Aotearoa)

How Children and Adults Can Build Core Capabilities for Life

The Centre on the Developing Child at Harvard University (USA) has created a 5-min video exploring the development and use of core capabilities – highlighting the links between Serve & Return, Executive Function, Self-regulation, and reduction of Toxic Stress


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