Face to Face


The importance of reciprocal expressions between a baby and an adult carer, and finding opportunities that enable it, are explored by Anne O’Connor…

Close interactions and the affectionate gaze between parent and child help shape a baby’s brain. But just as importantly, an essential part of Bobby’s brain is being built and developed through the positive experiences of face-to-face contact as she and her mother gaze happily at each other.

Bobby (seven months) and her mother are going for a walk down the high street. Bobby is in her buggy facing towards her mother, who smiles and talks to her as they walk along. When her mother stops to chat to someone, Bobby watches her face intently and mirrors her expressions as her mother smiles and laughs as she talks. She draws Bobby’s attention to things that she thinks will interest her, like the rocking horse outside the shop, and positions the pram so that Bobby can see it. Bobby shifts her gaze to look at the horse and back again to watch her mother’s face.


1 Bobby’s mother knows that a trip to the shops is full of sights and sounds and events that are interesting and stimulating to a young baby, no matter how familiar and everyday they might seem.

She also knows that Bobby needs her help to interpret and make sense of what she sees and hears as she builds up her knowledge and experience of the world around her.

Early positive experiences like a trip to the shops are so important for a baby’s brain development. As Sue Gerhardt writes in Why Love Matters – How affection shapes a baby’s brain (page 39), ‘When the relationship is dominated by pleasurable interactions, the parent and the baby are, without realising it, building up the baby’s pre-frontal cortex and developing his capacities for self-regulation and complex social interactions.’…

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