Peek a Boo!

A Model Simple Game

Photo by Kindel Media on

What is the Perfect First Game?

Peek-a-Boo has to be the most perfect game ever created for teaching social interaction. This game illustrates how universal, motivating, and enjoyable a simple social game is for young children. If you think about this game as the perfect basic structure for teaching joint attention (two people paying attention to the same item or event) and reciprocity (the back and forth of interaction), you can create many early games to play with your child.

Important Characteristics of Peek-a-Boo

    • Peek-a-Boo is visually simple: hands on face, hands off face, smiling face.

    • The verbal sequence is simple. Say Peek-a-Boo in a melodic way when your hands come off your face and then laugh.

    • The game is cognitively simple. It is all about hiding and finding (an early cognitive interest enjoyed by most children).

    • Peek-a-Boo is easy to initiate. Put your hands on your face, or under a scarf, or even just get behind a door, and then pop out again.

    • Peek-a-Boo has a predictable outcome: the beloved face always reappears!

    • Just a little exciting anticipation. How long will I wait? When will she emerge? Not yet....not yet... NOW!

    • Variations are endless. Peek-a-Boo leads to Hide 'n Seek, and to treasure hunts.

    • The roles in this game are clear. One person hides, the other person waits, both people smile and laugh as the hidden person emerges. Roles can be reversed!

Notice Difficulties Your Child has Playing Peek-a-Boo

The specific difficulties that your child has playing Peek-a-Boo can help you understand how you need to modify any game to make it successful for your child.

    • Emotional Regulation Difficulty (your child looks away, moves away, appears anxious, has a flushed appearance or red ears-this means your child is having difficulty with this amount of excitement or anticipation.

If your child struggles with the emotional demands of the game, you can try moving a little farther away, being a little less animated or loud, and/or looking at your child for a little less time.

    • Motor Planning or Spatial Security Difficulty (cannot hide eyes with his/her hands, seems confused about what to do next or what to do in what order)

Your child may not be able to hide his or her eyes (because it is a hard motor action or because your child feels insecure with closed eyes). If so, try using a scarf. Even a scarf that you can see through can be effective!

    • Attention Shifting Difficulty (your child becomes focused on the scarf if you are using one, or a toy on the floor close by)

Maybe your child does not notice that you are trying to play. Try using a heavy scarf and put this over your child's head briefly before pulling it off and singing out "Peek-a-Boo!” with a smile. This is hard to not notice!

    • Lack of Social Interest

Your child may not yet be convinced that interacting with others is as much fun as interacting with things. Maybe you will want to play this game by hiding and popping out from behind a door because doors might be interesting to your child.

    • Saying the words

If your child can’t imitate words yet, put the words Peek-a-Boo on a Talking Button and get someone else to help your child play the game. One person can hide, while the other person uses hand over hand to help your child learn to push the talking button at the right time.

There is surely a version of this game that will fill your child's heart with social delight! Modifying the game will helps you understand how to modify other games as well.