Playing Peekaboo with Your Baby

Playing peekaboo with your little one is a fun, enjoyable experience and one your baby will seemingly never tire of playing. In addition to being a fun game, peekaboo is also an engaging and educational activity. But how do you know when they’re ready to engage in this delightful game? This article will cover different ways to play peekaboo, how and why it is fundamental to your baby’s development, and when they’ll be ready. 

When Can My Baby Play Peekaboo

The fun behind playing peekaboo revolves around the theory of object permanence. Object permanence is when your baby has developed the knowledge that something out of sight has not genuinely disappeared. This level of development typically occurs around eight or nine months; this is why older babies tend to cry or fuss when their parents leave the room; they know you’re likely just around the corner, and if they cry, you may come back.

Around eight to twelve months, the beginning stages of object permanence begin, and your baby should begin searching for objects if they don’t see them or you hide them. This stage occurs during the Greater Exploration stage of your baby’s development. 

Like all developmental milestones, object permanence is a learned skill, and peekaboo is one of the ways you can start teaching cognitive skills to your little one. 

Most babies can begin engaging in peekaboo around three or four months and will continue enjoying the game long after object permanence develops; in fact, around nine or ten months, they may start initiating the game with you!

How to Play Peekaboo

There are a few different ways you can engage in peekaboo-style games with your baby!

Playing with Your Hands

The traditional style of playing peekaboo involves covering your face with your hands for a few seconds, then removing them and saying “Peekaboo!” in a cheerful, friendly voice. You can, of course, say other things besides “peekaboo,” such as hello, your baby’s name, or any other words you’d like! The key is to have a smile on your face and use a gentle and happy tone of voice.

Playing with a Blanket or Pillow

You can also play peekaboo using a blanket or pillow and hold it up between you and your baby. A blanket will cover your face more fully and may make your “return” more of a surprise.

Around eight or nine months, you can begin using a blanket you cover up toys and hide objects. You can then ask your baby, ‘Where’s the ball?” Allow them the opportunity to search for the toy; if they cannot find it, remove the blanket and say, “Here’s the ball!”

Hiding Toys Around the Room

Once your baby is mobile, usually around nine to twelve months, you can begin playing peekaboo by hiding toys around the room and asking your baby to search for them. Stick to hiding one object at a time as they won’t be able to remember a long list of items. You can hide the same object over and over in different spots, and they will enjoy looking for it repeatedly!

Peekaboo During Diaper Changes

Peekaboo is an excellent way to distract a fussy baby during diaper changes. Some babies dislike the process of having their diapers changed. Playing games and singing songs with your child can make them forget that they’re not having fun.

Turn Peekaboo into Hide and Seek

As your child grows and develops their cognitive skills, you can turn peekaboo into hide and seek. Toddlers and two-year-olds will love hiding from you and being discovered, and they will also enjoy finding you in your hiding spots. 

Developmental Benefits of Playing Peekaboo

As previously discussed, peekaboo revolves around the development of central cognitive skills. But it isn’t only cognitive development peekaboo assists with; it also helps develop your baby’s language, gross motor, and social skills. In addition, activities that engage multiple senses and developmental areas are excellent for stimulating your baby’s brain.

Peekaboo involves eye contact, smiles, talking and laughing, all of which are meaningful social interactions.  Smiles and laughs will be some of your baby’s very first social interactions and how they will first begin communicating with you, so give them an early start by playing and purposefully engaging them in eye contact. 

The give and take interactions that take place during peekaboo simulate the back and forth and turn-taking that takes place in a conversation. Take time to pause and allow your baby to gurgle or babble in response to your words. This type of back and forth game teaches your baby the rhythm of conversations. Plus, any time you talk to your baby, you enrich their vocabulary!

When to Worry

All babies develop naturally, and your baby may be behind or ahead of the curve in various areas of their development. However, you may need to speak to your pediatrician or an early childhood expert in a few instances. 

  • If your baby is not engaging in social smiles by four or five months old
  • If your baby is not making eye contact
  • If your baby is not responding to sounds, particularly the sound of their parents’ voices
  • If your baby is not engaging in peekaboo
  • If your baby is not babbling or engaging in social interactions

All of the above situations are possible signs of autism spectrum disorder or could indicate a problem with your baby’s eyesight or hearing. If at any time you have concerns about your baby’s development, speak with an early childhood provider or pediatrician.

A baby’s first game of peekaboo is a delightful time for parents and is the start of many years of games and play! The best thing about peekaboo is that you and your little one can play it anytime and anywhere!

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