The brain is like a muscle, it needs exercise to grow.
The way that parents (or grandparents, teachers etc.) “exercise” a baby’s brain is through interaction. That means doing something, almost anything, nice with your baby. Helping your baby or young child with the basics (pooping, peeing, eating, sleeping, protecting, keeping her warm and cool as needed) grows their brains. You are already doing this. Great!
Helping your baby calm down when she is upset or sick will grow her brain. Playing with your baby is a very important way to help her grow her brain.
Watching television does not grow a young child’s brain because it is not an interaction between them and you. If you play a learning computer game with your child and talk and laugh with him about it, this will develop his brain. It turns out having fun with your child and laughing is incredibly important to growing a smart and healthy brain. The website zerotothree.org has great information for parents on how to help their children grow.
Now, the rough stuff. What hurts your baby’s development and brain?
Not playing with your baby, not feeding her when she is hungry, not getting her to the doctor when she is sick, leaving her in the care of people who are using drugs or alcohol, not changing diapers when they are wet or dirty, and not helping her calm down when she is upset, sick or crying.
What I just described is called neglect. Neglect hurts the baby or young child’s brain in more ways than abuse (hitting, yelling or hurting a child). Most people don’t know that.
Below is a picture of two different brains of two different three year olds. The little brain did not grow because of neglect. It looks like that child had a disease but he did not; he was severely neglected.