Did you know that the technical term for games such as “Peek-A-Boo”, “Ring Around The Rosie”, “Row Row Row Your Boat”, etc is people games?
It actually makes a lot of sense.
All of these games involve a baby or toddler interacting with another person or people.
These “people games” all play an essential role in a child’s development. They are not only great for language development, but they also teach social skills.
In this article I will share with you information about “people games” and playing peek-a-boo in particular and why it is so important to incorporate them into your child’s early years.
Peek A Boo – What’s The Big Deal?
The peek a boo game is probably the oldest and most common “people game” around.
I can’t think of anyone who doesn’t know what peek a boo is. Even people without children can tell you what this game is all about.
It’s pretty straightforward. Usually the parent/caregiver covers his face with his hands and then says “peek a boo” while uncovering his face. This causes the baby to laugh in anticipation that the adult will do it again, and again, and again…
This game is great for babies and children usually up to 24 months. After that peek a boo usually turns into “hide and seek”.
Most parents and caregivers don’t realize the importance of something as simple as peek a boo.
Parents often play peek a boo with their children because its so common and they have seen someone doing this with a child at some point, or they have memories of their parents playing it with them. And it’s wonderful to see a big smile or hear a belly laugh from your baby or toddler.
Peek A Boo (and other “people games”) – 5 Skills Your Baby Will Gain
People games are all about routines.
The same thing usually always happens, however you can add some variation to keep it fun and interesting.
Let’s take playing peek a boo with a baby as an example.
This usually starts out with the parent covering their face with their hands.
Alternatively, you could also hold a blanket up in front your face.
As your baby gets older they will often play peek a boo by hiding behind a piece of furniture and popping out every time the adult says “peek a boo”.
Routines are a part of our daily lives.
Some routines always stay the same while others change. Playing people games with your child is teaching them all about routines and what can be expected from a routine.
An example of an adult routine would be getting ready for work in the morning.
This is probably pretty much the same everyday.
Develop Social Skills
When a child is engaging in a game of peek a boo they are also developing social skills.
In this case some of the social skills include turn taking and making eye contact.
As adults we must know how to take turns, whether it be taking turns in a conversation or taking turns doing a presentation at work.
It is also equally important to make eye contact with the person you are speaking with (in the Western culture – some cultures do not view eye contact the same way we do).
If an adult is always dominating a conversation and never makes eye contact with the person they are speaking with, the listener in this case will become bored and tune out.
In order to play peek a boo, the adult takes their turn by covering their face and simply saying “peek a boo”.
The child takes their turn by giggling and/or vocalizing (“more”, “again”, etc.) while looking at the adult.
This provides a signal to the adult to start the game (routine) again.
Facilitate Speech & Language Development
It is important to try and use the same language over and over when playing these types of games with your child.
If your child is older (18 months +), instead of saying “peek a boo” you could try asking a question, e.g. “where am I?” while holding a blanket over your head.
When your child removes the blanket you can reply with “here I am”. Doing this over and over again will help your child to learn these words.
For a younger child, stick with saying “peek a boo” and when you move your hands away just say “boo”. Eventually your child may imitate you and start saying “boo” as well!
Encourage Parent Child Bonding
Babies and young children (and even older children) love getting lots of love, hugs, cuddles and kisses from their parents/caregivers. Playing these kind of social games with your little one is a great way to strengthen your bond with your baby.
You are close together, making eye contact, and sharing laughs!
By doing this you are giving your baby/toddler your sole attention.
And this is what they need most during these precious early years.
Promote Prediction Skills
Games like “Row, Row, Row Your Boat”, “Catch”, “Tickles” and of course “Peek-a-Boo” teach babies all about prediction.
In a way, this is also what a routine does.
After a few rounds of “where’s baby?” they will begin to anticipate and predict what might happen next.
This will become an important life skill as your child grows up.
Teaches Object Permanence
Object permanence is the understanding that when a person or object disappears it doesn’t necessarily mean that the person or object is gone forever.
This skill usually develops between 4 and 7 months.
The reason young babies get so excited playing peek a boo is because they often do not understand the concept of object permanence. It is also why they might get frustrated when food or a toy falls from the high chair. In their minds it has disappeared and is gone forever.
Try playing peek a boo with toys and a blanket once your baby is closer to 6 months old.
If you cover a favorite toy with a blanket or hide it in a box, will your baby look for it? If the answer is yes, then object permanence is developing.
In order for symbolic understanding to occur (this is a key part of language development, pretend play and creative exploration) object permanence needs to be achieved.
Beneficial For Children With Special Needs
Social skills are often the greatest area of concern for children with social communication difficulties such as autism.
People games are a great way to practice some of these skills as there is plenty of interaction, back and forth “communication”, eye contact, etc.
The R.O.C.K strategy (repeat, opportunity, cue, keep it going) is an example of how you can come up with your own ways to create a people game that is predictable and structured.
Learn more about it here!
I could go on and on and talk about all of the different people games and all of the things they can teach a young child, but you would be reading for a long time.
My point is simply that something as easy as the baby peek a boo game teaches so many skills.
So remember that while it may seem boring to you, your child is learning so much!
People games are also a great way to follow your child’s lead.