In our Kindermusik classes we often use simple props and toys for exploration and musical play. One of the most popular is our colorful, lightweight, semi-transparent scarves. We use these scarves to explore various movements and concepts such as high and low, fast and slow, and smooth and bumpy. But, by far, everyone’s favorite thing to do with them is to play Peekaboo! I cannot help but laugh when, as soon as I hand out the scarves, nearly every child is either hiding under their scarf or hiding their parent under the scarf for a good old peekaboo gigglefest, singing some of our favorite peekaboo songs. What makes this simple game so timeless? Well, apart from being lots of fun, peekaboo is actually a great way for babies and young children to develop necessary skills. Here are just four:
- Object Permanence
Remember when your child was under a year of age, and every time you left the room he would burst into tears? Children under 12-18 months do not have a concept of Object Permanence – the understanding that something, or someone, continues to exist when it cannot be seen or heard. A game of peekaboo helps babies to gradually grasp the idea that, “just because I can’t see Mommy right now doesn’t mean she is gone forever.” When playing peekaboo with babies under a year of age, hide your face with your hands or a sheer piece of fabric, so that you and Baby can still maintain a level of eye contact. Also, hide a toy behind your back or under a towel and watch as Baby slowly starts to piece together exactly where you are hiding it!
- Fine-motor skills, Hand-eye coordination, and Motor Grading
As a baby begins to reach for and grasp objects, a game of peekaboo is a great way to develop these essential fine motor skills. Hide Baby or a toy under a lightweight piece of fabric, and she will start to use her hands to try to remove it. Reaching for the fabric exercises her hand-eye coordination, grasping it with her little fingers exercises her fine motor skills, and removing the fabric helps her learn just how much effort she needs to apply to make it move.
- Social interaction
A game of peekaboo could be likened to a very simple conversation: “where are you?” followed by “peekaboo, here I am!” For babies and toddlers, this back and forth interaction lays the groundwork for future social interactions and builds communication skills. Try turning peekaboo into a fun song-game by slightly changing the words to the song “Where Has My Little Dog Gone?” to, “where, oh where, has my little boy gone?” or, “where, oh where, has Daddy gone? Peekaboo!”
- Anticipation, Surprise, & Patterns
Peekaboo even supports early emotional development through the sensations of anticipation and surprise, and pre-math skills through the repetitive pattern of the game. After a few repetitions of your favorite way to play Peekaboo, your child will begin to recognize the pattern of the game. She will come to feel anticipation for the coming surprise when whatever it is that is hiding is revealed.