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Relationships Foster Learning

You’ve probably heard it a thousand times… positive relationships are crucial to a child’s development.

And if you haven’t, let us tell you! Positive relationships are crucial to a child’s development.

But what does a “positive relationship” really mean? A positive relationship is based on the concept of serve and return. Serve and return interactions involve an adult responding positively with attention and appreciation of a child with warmth and care. When attentive, loving adults respond appropriately, neural connections are born.

It’s brain science!

Relationships are literally the foundation of learning. For without a positive relationship, the brain actually resists learning and developing. A warm and caring relationship that honours the child’s interests is crucial to children’s brain architecture.

The quality of our relationships, as children and as adults, affects our well-being and our capacity to learn. As young children, our world is filled with endless new information, and navigating it all is bound to be overwhelming.

That’s where the all-important positive relationship comes into play. That person or those people help us understand, make associations, and build connections in our brains as we begin to make sense of the world around us.

It’s through these interactions within this positive relationship that we begin to truly develop and learn. Every area of children’s development is affected by relationships: intellectual, social, emotional, physical, behavioural, and moral1.

We can even see how our early positive relationships build the foundations for developmental outcomes that matter later in life1, such as:

  • Self-confidence

  • Sound mental health

  • Motivation to learn (achievement in school and later in life)

  • The ability to control aggressive impulses and resolve conflict in nonviolent ways

  • Knowing the difference between right and wrong

  • The capacity to develop and maintain casual friendships and intimate relationships

  • Becoming a successful parent oneself

All of this to say, when we focus on building a relationship with our child(ren) based on warmth, attention, care and reciprocity, the learning comes along naturally.

1 National Scientific Council on the Developing Child (2004). Young Children Develop in an Environment of Relationships: Working Paper No. 1. Retrieved from

Photos by Karolina Grabowska from Pexels

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