Do babies initiate peek-a-boo?

My baby does. He puts his head down into the pillow and then springs up again smiling and says “jah-o”. His mother is Cambodian. The Cambodian (Khmer) for ‘peek-a-boo-’ is ‘wah-o’. He does this 4 or 5 times and laughs and laughs with me or his mother saying wah-o or peek-a-boo.
I have never seen another baby do this. Do other babies do this?

I’ve definitely seen babies do this once they’ve been introduced to the game. I don’t think I’ve ever come across any who thought it up on their own.

My psychology professor in college explained it thusly.

Basically, babies think that Not There means Doesn’t Exist. You hide your face and pop out again while playing peek-a-boo, you are in essence performing a magic trick for the baby…disappearing and reappearing from existence.

I’ve seen toddlers do this…they’ve done something wrong and hide their face, thinking you can’t see them.

By the time they are toddlers, most kids aren’t operating that way. I think that hiding your face is more of a communicative act, kind of like how standing with crossed arms is a guarded, defensive posture for adults.

Mom is generally the first permanent object. Object permanence is a fundamental step in cognitive growth. The fear of loosing mom, the ultimate important object, is relieved, and the relief is joyous. Repetition makes it the first joke that you “get”. Getting it is way cool, and so the joke is one of those funny every time things for a very long time.

We invent the game for our kids. We do this because they laugh, and we will repeat almost anything that makes our kids laugh. The charm of Peek a Boo is that the kid hasn’t quite figured out that he is in charge. Later he does, and the new game is the tantrum. It takes us fairly long to learn how not to play that one. Some of us never do.


Sure they do. Even before speech they are very visual creatures and fast learners. You disappear and reappear a few times and they learn to “disappear you” and “re-appear you” by closing their eyes or blocking you from their vision with a blanket. It lasts for a few years untill they realize that it’s just a game. I play peek-a-boo with kids in the checkout line at the supermarket all the time. I don’t know who’s having more fun, me or the kids. :smiley:

Thanks for the replies. Maybe I should try a parenting page

Oh, it’s so awesome when they start initiating peek-a-boo, isn’t it? It’s the first game they can play, and seeing them be the ones to start it is such a great moment. It’s when I really grok that there’s a person in there! A real person with a mind of his own! And it’s when HE starts to understand that he can make stuff happen - he can initiate interaction that doesn’t revolve around his physical discomfort. What a rush that must be!

I had a professor in college (whose name completely escapes me, so I can’t google for cites, sorry) who did a bunch of research in the field of imaginative play. She discovered that ALL imaginative play that a very young child displayed was first modeled by an adult, even if the adult denied ever showing the child the game! She had lots and lots of videos, so when Mom said, “I never taught him to use the block to feed the puppy!” she could go back and find the date on which, yes indeed, Mom held out the block and said, “Is the puppy hungry? Nom, nom, nom,” and then completely forgot about it. She could find no evidence that children under the age of about 3 or 4 create *any *form of new play at all - it’s all modeled for them first.

Which means, of course - play with your baby a lot! He needs you to show him how to do it.
ETA: Be very, very careful about parenting message boards. They can be great resources to connect with people who are as passionate about their babies as you are yours. They can also be nests of vipers, full of judgmental harpies who will start a flamewar over the silliest things. If you’re not completely 100% dedicated to attachment parenting, organic food and cloth diapers (and, of course, exclusive breastfeeding), you might find yourself torn a new one for a simple question. By all means, post as long as you’re enjoying it, but keep in mind that the women on there tend to the crazy obsessive end of the spectrum.

I would love to read that stuff without getting involved. Maybe a thread could be started? Or is there a website dedicated to it? Any recommendations?