“What if I was to tell you that a game of peek-a-boo could change the world?” asks 7-year-old Molly Wright, one of the youngest-ever TED speakers.
Better informed about early brain development than many adults much older than she, Molly both tells and shows viewers of her TED talk how positive interactions between adults and young children can have amazing results. She does a great job of demonstrating why the answer to her lead-in questions is “yes, it CAN change the world!”
We now know a baby’s brain makes some 1 million synapses or neural connections every second – that’s about the length of time it would take you to snap your fingers. And those connections are reinforced over and over again by a baby’s interactions with her parents or other loving adults in her life. Molly calls it “serve and return,” a phrase made popular by Dr. Jack P. Shonkoff, Director of the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University. It’s those serve and return interactions that shape brain architecture.
And it’s not hard. Many parents naturally practice this. Others, especially parents of newborns, say they feel silly trying to have a “conversation” with their baby way before he can hold up his side of the conversation. But once they start, it doesn’t take long to respond to baby’s cooing or gurgling or smiling!
The national nonprofit LENA has coined another name for this – “words and turns.” Conversational turns are LENA’s proxy for quality “serve and return” interactions. “Words and turns” refers to the quantity and quality of the words a baby hears their parent speak as well as the number of times baby and parent take turns communicating. It’s not all parent talk, but it’s parent-baby-parent-baby, and so on, sometimes initiated by the parent and sometimes by the baby. Words and turns also helps develop brain architecture as well as a child’s vocabulary, a key indicator of the likelihood a child will become a good reader.
Best Beginnings has partnered with the Anchorage Public Library to bring LENA workshops to Anchorage. Online, 10-week classes designed for caregivers and their child are scheduled beginning in September. For more information on registering for a LENA workshop, click here.
So, yes, a game of peek-a-boo played between a parent and baby with lots of love, laughter, and “words and turns” can, as Molly knows, change the world.