By Professor Julie Green, Executive Director at raisingchildren.net.au
All mums know the game peek-a-boo… where you hide your face behind your hands and pop out again, saying ‘peek-a-boo!’. Whilst it seems like a simple game and a way to make your mini bae giggle (and they’re just so darn cute when they laugh), did you know that you are actually enhancing your relationship with your bebe and helping their development by playing and spending time together? Yep! Pretty cool.
1 // Bambinos learn through play
Play is a vital component of development in the first 1000 days of a child’s life. The first 1000 days, from conception to two years old, are critical in setting the foundation for lifelong health and wellbeing, and parents are instrumental in these early days in supporting children to thrive. Because babies and young children’s main way of learning is through play, in a game of peek-a-boo they’re learning loads of things like attachment, language, motor skills, thinking and confidence to explore the world.
2 // They communicate through play
So when your baby squeals and reaches out their arms to say they want more play, they are developing language and motor skills, and showing they are attached to you (a sign of healthy social and emotional development). And when you respond, it encourages your baby to keep communicating with you, and to trust you. This helps them to feel safe, loved and secure, which gives them confidence to explore the world.
3 // Play helps you bond with your babe
Peek-a-boo also helps with your baby’s thinking, as they learn about what comes next when you disappear and then reappear. A game of peek-a-boo is a one very simple way you are helping to lay the foundation for good attachment and bonding in your child’s first 1000 days.
Other ideas for bonding and attachment with your baby:
- Use words when you respond to your baby’s needs. Repeat words to help your baby understand their meanings eg. when you’re feeding your baby, you could say, ‘Are you hungry?’ or ‘I’m hungry too’.
- Repeat your baby’s sounds back to them. If your baby says ‘ba-ba’, say ‘ba-ba’ back and wait for them to respond. This teaches your baby about having a conversation.
- Help your baby to calm down after being upset or excited. You can do this by stroking them, saying gentle words and playing soothing music. This helps your baby learn to soothe themselves, which is a first step towards self-regulation.
Key milestones in the first 1000 days of life include; conception, birth, interacting, eating solids, walking, and talking – among many others! Along with play, babies need supportive relationships with caregivers, safety and security, a healthy environment and healthy nutritious food. For more info, visit raisingchildren.net.au/first1000days