Understanding the Milestone
Peekaboo is one of the first and best baby games ever invented. Not only is it fun, but it also shows a significant milestone for their cognitive development and the ability to think abstractly. Peekaboo stimulates baby’s senses, builds gross motor skills, strengthens his visual tracking, encourages his social development and the best of all tickles his sense of humor. Peekaboo also teaches object permanence, i.e. the idea that even though he can’t see something, it still exists.
Because Peekaboo mimics what your baby is just coming to understand about the world, that objects and people still exist even when he can’t see them. That’s why he finds quick appearances and disappearances amusing.
So, remember that when you play interactive games like peek-a-boo with your toddler, you are not only providing some very enjoyable entertainment and interaction with him, you are actually aiding him in facilitating some of the most important developmental steps that lead to the foundation of the personality.
What & When to Expect the Milestone?
Object Permanence typically starts to develop in babies between 4-7 months of age, but babies of all ages love playing Peekaboo, from newborn to toddlers.
Expected response of your baby and benefits of games like Peekaboo at different stages:
Birth to 6 months: Your baby gets to hear your voice and any interaction with a parent is stimulating.
6 to 9 months: Your baby will start enjoying games like peekaboo more at this point, mainly because he loves to see your smiling face. He may act surprised though because he’s not yet anticipating what comes next so at this point peekaboo is a great surprise game that gears him up for the next stage.
9 to 12 months: Now your baby will start picking up on your cues and can figure out that a surprise is coming. Anticipation is a great developmental milestone and shows that your baby is picking up on cause and effect.
12 months +: At this point peekaboo may become a two-way game. Your baby will start to try and grab at your hands when you try to surprise her and may even start peekabooing at you, covering his little face with his hand or an object.
Activities & Stimulation
Almost any time baby is awake and alert is a good time to play Peekaboo or other gentle interactive games like ‘pat-a-cake’. In fact, the more practice baby gets with games that combine visual development, gross motor play and social interaction, the better it is for his growing baby brain.
For newborns, play Peekaboo by covering your face with your hands. Newborns are fascinated by faces and would rather look at your face than almost anything else in the world. As baby grows and starts to get the game, try variations on Peekaboo. For example, Hide a favorite toy behind a pillow or blanket and have baby look for it, then reveal it with a flourish. Or try partially concealing a toy under a blanket and see if your baby reaches for it himself.
As baby gains more hand-eye coordination, he’ll soon be able to play Pat-a-cake. A finger-play song like pat-a-cake has a special pattern or rhythm that your baby will start to recognize after you plays the game many times. After you have played the game many times, try asking your baby, “wanna play pat-a-cake?” Wait a moment and see if the baby responds by showing excitement or moving his arms. Babies begin to show they understand around 10 to 12 months of age.
Early speech-reading, mouth movements, rhythm and facial expression are learned during communication play. If your infant or toddler is learning spoken language, these games let you call his attention to meaningful sounds. This is a first step in learning to listen.
What Not to Worry About?
Around the same time that babies grasp Object permanence, they typically begin to exhibit strong preferences for their favorites. It’s not a co-incidence that many babies begin to develop Separation and Stranger anxiety at around 5 months, just when object recognition and object permanence are both starting to click in baby’s brain. A baby who was comfortable in a visiting Grandparent’s loving arms as a newborn might suddenly start crying if they tries to pick him up now.
When to Talk to a Professional?
You may talk to your doctor or another health professional, if you notice that:
Your child has no interest in games like peek-a-boo, by the time he is 6-8 months old.
Or, he doesn’t search for hidden or removed objects, by the time your baby is 12 months old.