PEEK-A-BOO! I see you.
This game is so simple and yet so effective. It’s almost a guaranteed way to keep a baby entertained for a good 15 minutes and usually ends with both you and bubs in giggles. We wanted to know why this game is such a winner and yes, there is a science behind it.
A Swiss developmental psychologist, Jean Piaget states that the first two years of a child’s life is spent discovering their environment through their senses and trying to make connections emotionally and physically with the world.
It is in these two years, where the game of PEEK-A-BOO is at its prime.
PEEK-A-BOO teaches a child about “Object Permanence” – the ability to understand that an object continues to exist, despite not being able to be seen. Approximately up until a baby is 9 months old, they don’t actually realise that you are still there once you’ve covered your face. Once the baby grasps the concept, they will start grabbing your hands to tell you to show yourself because they now know you’re still there.
But why do they find it so entertaining?
It’s essentially a magic show between you and your little one.
They are simply amazed that something can disappear and then reappear.
The simple pleasure from this game comes from the element of surprise, balanced with expectation.
Before the concept is understood, once you cover your face they think that you or the object that had been there just a second ago magically vanishes into thin air. Then when you or the object suddenly “reappears” in front of them, it’s a surprise that makes them laugh.
As they begin to grasp the concept that things still exist, even if they can’t see them. The joy comes from the anticipation and expectation that you or the object will eventually reappear and return. For example, you show them a toy and then hide that toy under a pillow; the baby expects the toy to magically appear under the pillow and when it’s there, they find it hilarious.
Eventually, the game of PEEK-A-BOO evolves into HIDE AND SEEK.
(Strangely, we never made this very obvious connection before looking into this)
Some other great games to play with the little ones under 12 months.
Whether you are a pro-baby entertainer or a novice baby entertainer, we hope you find the below games helpful.
TIP: where you can, ask an older sibling to get involved!
Babies begin to recognise faces (of others, such as close carers) before objects or patterns.
However, babies won’t recognise their own faces until about 15 months. So during the early months, looking in a mirror is a fun social activity that can be done between you and baby.
Sit at a close distance to the mirror, with baby in your lap. They will find entertainment in engaging with the face in the mirror, although not yet recognising it’s their own. Once they have developed enough to be able to identify their favourite toy, use the toy to talk with them in front of the mirror. This will help them learn to recognise themselves, as they can already recognise the toy in the reflection.
PEEK-A-BOO mixed with obstacles.
For babies on the move, build a miniature obstacle course out of cushions. Nothing too fancy, keep it baby safe at ground level and encourage them to climb over the cushions. Hide yourself behind a big cushion and play PEEK-A-BOO as they make their way around the course. This will help them learn object permanence as well as help them with the development of their body strength, balance and coordination.
Seriously, who doesn’t love bubbles? Whether they are seated in a bouncy chair, play pen or car seat – blow a few bubbles in the air and watch your little one look at them in amazement and try and catch one. (Just remember to wash their hands, we don’t think they make “no tears” bubble solution)
Catch for babies
This game can be played with your baby lying on their back or in a sit up position. Using a brightly coloured ribbon, securely attach a soft toy or some pretty light floaty tissue to it and gently dangle it in front of their face. This will help with the development of their hand-eye coordination. Give lots of praise whenever they try and make a catch and of course, ensure you keep the ribbon out of reach when unsupervised.
You can make this more of a sensory experience by dangling different textures of fabric such as velvet, satin, suede, felt etc.
Place a lightweight medium sized ball (or even a blown up balloon will do) in front of your little one. Pick them up firmly under their arms and swing them gently so that their little feet make contact with the ball. This game is great because it doesn’t matter if they can’t walk yet and the swinging action strengthens their tummy and legs muscles.
We aren’t all naturally fantastic with kids (we are convinced, some people are born with a gift), so if you know any new uncle or aunty-to-be’s, I am sure they would appreciate the tips!