14. The Still Face Experiment


Building Strong Foundations

We know that healthy relationships between children and caregivers are important for building strong brains. Starting with newborns, a responsive child-caregiver bond builds a strong foundation for development through "serve and return" interactions.


"Serve and return" works like a game of tennis or volleyball between child and caregiver. The child “serves” by reaching out for interaction with eye contact, facial expressions, gestures, babbling or touch. A responsive caregiver will “return the serve” by speaking back, playing peekaboo, or sharing a toy or a laugh. These back and forth exchanges are the building blocks of children's early brain development. They help children learn how to control their emotions, to cope with stress, and to learn skills that will serve as a foundation for later development. A caregiver who is sensitive and responsive to a young child’s signals will provide an environment rich in "serve and return" experiences.


Quality Time

It is important to build quality time for children and loved ones into our day. Connection doesn't require a certain quantity of time, it relies on the quality of the time spent together. Be aware of and seize precious moments that present themselves to connect with each other. Some of the best options for quality times are at meal times and bed times, at the start and end of the day. Managing our own stress is also important, an unstressed caregiver has a greater positive impact on a child's well being. "Serve and return" is essential to all relational well-being.


Still Faced Technology and Virtual Autism

A generation is becoming so addicted to social technology that they are “virtually autistic” and unable to be stimulated in the real world, according to one of the world’s foremost brain experts.

During typical face-to-face meetings, only 10 per cent of communication comes from spoken words. Baroness Greenfield found that "people growing up as native users of Facebook and other social media are losing the ability to use the other 90 per cent of communication that comes through visual and other queues which impact their interpersonal skills. This might lead to autistic-like traits … and we are going to have what is now increasingly called  ‘virtual autism’: an impairment of interpersonal skills due to excessive use of screens and not enough rehearsal of face-to-face interactions.”


This film clip is used with permission of Zero To Three who have an amazing array of early childhood resources.


"When I first saw this video I instantly recognized the same feelings of abandonment and rejection that I had felt whilst a toddler.


Later in life I came to recognize abandonment and betrayal as a common part of the stories of the homeless and mentally ill people I was to work alongside".

Food For Thought


What new knowledge did you gain from this lesson?


Now that you know this, how could it be applied?