Hearing the laughter and squeals from a child during a game of peek-a-boo is priceless. There are no fancy toys involved, no specific skills or language needed – just you and your child.
Peek-a-boo – a game that spans cultures and generations – is enticing for children of various ages and is a game that evolves as a child develops. Babies from around the world have been reported to laugh the most through interacting with others while playing peek-a-boo. And as a bonus – making children laugh has been linked to enhancing a child’s attention, motivation and memory, which in turn enhances learning. Being rewarded with all of those smiles and giggles makes the game of peek-a-boo enjoyable for us adults too!
Babies typically start to react to and smile during simple games of peek-a-boo when they are about 3 months old. At around 6-8 months old, the game starts to become more interactive. At this age a child is able to hold a memory for short periods of time which enables the child to begin anticipating the actions of the adult and predict that they are going to re-appear after they have disappeared. When a child is about 12 months old, the game of peek-a-boo changes again. He starts to recognize that he can take a more active role in the play and even make you laugh! You may see your child starting to take the role of the ‘peeker’, or change up the game by picking a new object to hide behind, or popping out to ‘peek’ at you sooner than you anticipated. This changes and expands the rhythm of the game. As your child continues to develop we start to see the game of peek-a-boo evolve into more sophisticated games of hide and seek.
What is it about the simple act of disappearing and reappearing that children find so fascinating? What are they learning?
Peek-a-boo helps to develop your child’s memory and learn about object permanence.
- Object permanence refers to the ability to understand that an object still exists even when it is hidden.
- When a child starts playing peek-a-boo he is usually quite amazed that something can re-appear after being gone! It’s like magic. As a child gets more familiar with the game he starts to realize that things still exist even when he can’t see them. This is an important foundational skill for both language and social emotional development.
Peek-a-boo also teaches a child about what we would consider to be one of the most important things in the world – human interaction. Think about it. During a game of peek-a-boo, it’s just you and the child. No distractions – just the two of you going back and forth looking at each other!
- The child can explore your facial expressions, and begin to understand that he can read and express information through facial expression.
- The child looks at you spontaneously – making eye contact.
- You get into a natural back and forth interaction where you are both taking turns in the play.
So next time you find yourself craving some baby giggles, remember science says that peek-a-boo is your best bet! It’s great for learning, doesn’t take a long time to play, you don’t need any toys and it can be played anywhere – during bath time, while feeding, and you can even play while standing in line at the grocery store!
What is your favorite way to play peek-a-boo?