Why peekaboo is a great game to play with babies

Peekaboo is such a classic game to play with your baby. Your grandparents played it with your parents, your parents played it with you, and now you’re playing it with your child. But what’s the deal with baby peekaboo? Why do babies absolutely love this simple game? And is it really just a game, or could it be that during a game of peekaboo, baby brains are undergoing some sort of important developmental process? 

If you’ve read any literature on infant development as a parent yet, you could probably guess that, yes, peekaboo definitely plays a role in your child’s development. Here’s everything you need to know about this must-play game. 

When do babies play peekaboo?

Babies play peekaboo during most stages of infancy — and they should. At every stage, playing peekaboo is helping your infant develop in some way. 

During the first few months, peekaboo is a way of bonding with your child as you play with them. They might not respond much — you might get a smile out of them, or maybe some crying, depending on your baby’s nature — but they’re still learning and watching. Just remember that, because newborns don’t quite understand object permanence yet, the game may scare them at first. If you realize that they’re becoming distressed every time you “disappear” or becoming startled when you say the final “boo,” it might be time to hold off on the game. 

Around 6 months, peekaboo helps your baby learn visual tracking and object permanence. They’re starting to understand that, just because your face is hidden, it doesn’t mean that you’re gone. They’re starting to comprehend that you’re still there and this is just a fun game.

Around 9 months, your baby might start to play along. They’ve understood that this is a social interaction, and so now, they’re mimicking you. They’re learning not only how to actively interact with you, but also how to use their motor skills to do so. 

What does playing peekaboo teach my baby?

Beyond teaching your baby important skills like visual tracking, object permanence, and motor skills, playing peekaboo also helps your baby learn to socially engage with others (such as the other player), as well as social skills like taking turns, especially if they’ve reached the stage where they’re actively playing along with you and you swap off who’s “hiding” during the game. 

Beyond this, though, peekaboo can teach social skills like engagement and taking turns to older children as well, when they play the game with a younger sibling. So, even if you have an older toddler or young adolescent that you think wouldn’t ever be interested in a game of peekaboo again, see if you can engage them in playing with their younger sibling. Both can benefit from the interaction. 

Is there any way to change up the game?

After one too many times playing peekaboo, you’re probably a bit bored, understandably. While repetition is great for growing, developing minds, there are only so many times a parent can play peekaboo, read the same book, watch the same movies and listen to the same songs before they’re ready to retire from this parenthood thing for good.

Both for your sanity and to give your baby a little variety, try to mix things up a bit the next time you play peekaboo. Rather than being the one who disappears, play peekaboo with your child’s favorite stuffed animal, hiding it under a blanket or behind your back. 

What comes after peekaboo? 

Once your child is around 9 months to a year old and they’re entering the toddler phase, you may find that they’re not quite so keen on peekaboo as they once were. In this case, it might be time to introduce a new game to keep their interest and help them continue their development. Patty cake is a good one, as it helps them to learn hand-eye coordination and further fine-tune those motor skills.

mom playing with son in crib

The simplest interactions can teach some of the most important developmental skills 

Can you imagine making your way through the world without motor skills or object permanence? These skills are vital for your child’s survival, but luckily, they’re not at all difficult to teach. Simple games and interactions like peekaboo and patty cake can make a big impact on your child’s mental and physical development.

For more help teaching your infant important developmental skills, check out these top educational toys for newborns.

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