Babies & Toddlers Learn Object Permanence by Playing Peekaboo

Why Play Peekaboo with Your Baby (Infant & Toddler)?

Child’s Development in the Early Years

Peekaboo is a classic game for infants and toddlers, played across the world and across cultures. Playing peekaboo with babies enhances their sensory capabilities. According to the Swiss developmental psychologist Jean Piaget, “Object Permanence” is something that a child learns in the first two years of her life. That’s why when we drop something and it goes rolling under a table, we are certain that the object still exists, although we cannot see it. This is something we figured out in the first two years of our lives.

The sensory capacities of hearing, smell, sight, taste and touch rapidly develop during the first few years of life. The sensory tools help a child adjust to her surroundings but the child has to learn to do much more. 

Rohini Vij explains How & Why to Play Peekaboo with Your Baby / Toddler

When to Play Peekaboo with Your Child?

You can start playing peekaboo with your newborn baby and continue to play till the baby loses interest or has developed motor, gross and sensory skills for more advanced play. In general, peekaboo can be played with newborns and toddlers. Research suggests that 4 to 5 months old babies begin to develop object permanence. 

How Does Playing Peekaboo Help Your Baby?

Peekaboo stimulates a baby’s senses and cognitive development 

Peek-a-boo is a game that can work differently at different stages of your baby’s development. Some senses, like touch and hearing, are fully developed at birth. Others, such as sight, take several months to mature. When you play the game with a very young baby, the game stimulates hearing and touch and strengthens visual tracking. As the baby grows up the game elicits a response and works towards enhancing language development too. When you play the game over and over again, using different mediums, for example, sometimes with a scarf, sometimes with your hands, sometimes simply by hiding behind a cushion, the baby begins to recognize a trend and predictability. This encourages cognitive development in the child too. 

Builds gross and fine motor skills

When you play the game with very young children, they make an effort to reach out, this indeed is the beginning of motor skill development.  When the game is played with a toddler it elicits movement and works towards improving their balance, agility and coordination. 

Encourages early language development

When you play the game with a very young baby, it marks the beginning of language development, bonding, use of words and early conversations. The baby hears words followed by an action. Gradually the baby starts imitating you and this fosters language development.  The baby learns meaningful actions followed by an instruction, for example, when the parent says,  ‘Now let’s hide the teddy’ or ‘Where is mummy? Ah, here she is!’ or ‘Boo’, there is an action followed by the speech. This is how the foundation for language is set. 

Encourages social development 

When the game is played with very young babies they experience a variety of emotions such as surprise, happiness, anticipation, excitement and of course happiness. These emotions are foundation stones in their social emotional development. 

When the game is played with toddlers, it encourages children to take turns, play with others, build their confidence and patience, independence and the ability to entertain oneself (you may find them playing this game alone with their toys). 

Tickles a child’s sense of humor

Smiles, squeals and laughter are a form of early communication. The game encourages children to start seeing the funny side. They begin to understand how the activity is being performed to elicit a few laughs from them. Laughter is also an invaluable cornerstone for developing their ability to interact with others. 

Object permanence

For very young babies, if something or someone is hidden they are not there. The game plays a massive role in helping the child that even though they can’t see the thing or person, it’s there. 

When you are hidden behind the scarf, the child can’t see you but when you re-appear the child feels comforted that you are there. When you do this several times, the child figures out that even though she can’t see you, your smiling face is right behind the scarf. This plays an enormous part in building the social-emotional skills of a child, enhancing the child’s confidence and trust. This is also laying a foundation for their cognitive development. So remember, it may be a very simple game but that little brain is upto a lot of work! 

How to Play Peekaboo with Your Baby (Infant & Toddler)?

You can play it in its most simple version by covering your face with your hands and saying ‘peek’ and removing your hands and saying ‘a-boo’. 

You may also make it elaborate by using a scarf and some stuffed toys too. 

Here’s what you can do: 

Place the child in a safe space. The floor, on a rug, is usually a safe place for toddlers. You could do this with little babies on the bed and cot too. 

You will need with you: 

  1. A stuffed toy 
  2. A towel/scarf 
  3. Another toy – could be a rattle or even a book 

Place the stuffed toy in front of the child in plain sight. Now start with peek-a-boo

First, take the scarf and cover your face. Say peek-a-boo…

Now put the scarf on the teddy bear and say peek-a-boo again and pull off the scarf. Encourage the child to join in with you. 

Now take the scarf and cover the rattle/book and sing the song. Wait for the baby to react. Does the baby attempt to remove the scarf? If not, encourage the child to do the same. Repeat this game as many times as you like. At some point, the baby will start copying you. Then you may cover the baby’s face with the scarf too and encourage some drama. 

Games have also been found to change the brain structurally and functionally, according to many scientific studies. They can promote neurogenesis — the growth of new neurons in the brains. They can also promote neuroplasticity — changes in neural pathways and synapses that lead to structural changes in the brain.

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