In the developmental period beginning around four or five months children are learning something very important. They are learning that when something leaves their sight, it will not necessarily be gone forever. The concept is called object permanence. This can be a difficult lesson to learn, especially since some things that leave are gone forever and some things come back. The child struggles to figure this out, often through tears of anguish when the object which has disappeared from sight is the parent. It can take our little one a year or more to really get it. Then, when a new situation occurs, such as the beginning of going to preschool or day care, we might see our little one dissolve into tears. The unspoken question is, “Will mommy really come back this time?”
Parents and caregivers begin to see baby playing the “drop it off the highchair” game. Babies expect the adult to retrieve the fallen object and once they have the object—yes!--they drop it again! It takes lots of practice when you are learning object permanence.
There are a few great games to play with babies who are working on this concept. One of the games is peek-a-boo. We all love engaging the baby in this game, covering our face with our hands (while looking through the cracks in our fingers so that we can enjoy baby’s reaction) and then quickly opening our hands while saying the magic words, “Peek-a-boo!” You double the fun when both parents join in. One person hides their face and the other asks in a puzzled voice, “Where’s daddy?” As baby begins to enjoy the game, she will scoot over to daddy, touching his hands and maybe trying to pull his fingers away from his eyes. “Peek-a-boo! You found him! You are so smart!” Everyone erupts in giggles and gentle tickles.
Another great game is hiding a favorite toy under a blanket. “Where’s Teddy?” In the early stages you may need to let part of Teddy stick out from under the blanket and help baby to locate Teddy. Soon baby will love to find all his favorite toys under blankets. Don’t make it too hard. The object of this game is to give baby lots of practice being successful. Help him find the toy if you’ve hidden it too well and give him full credit for your joint success.
The last great game is a combination of the two: Bug in the Rug. It has been one of my favorites for many years, not only with little ones but with preschoolers also. With the older toddler or preschooler it can be extended to give memory practice by hiding two and then three objects under the blanket. You can take turns being the bug to give the toddler who is in the ‘me-me-me’ stage practice in becoming more social.
I hope you have fun with Bug in a Rug this week. You might cut out the picture of the bug or make your own. Glue it to a small card, cover the card with clear tape or contact paper for durability, add a magnet and put it on the refrigerator within your child’s reach, and VOILA! You have your very own ‘Bug in a Rug’ refrigerator rhyme.
Bug in a rug
Bug in a rug
Who’s that hiding?
Bug in a rug
This little game is a version of peek-a-boo. Peek-a-boo is an early social game for infants and very, very useful for young children. To play the game, cover yourself or child with a blanket. Chant the little poem. Ask ‘who’s hiding?’ Do not cover if the child may be anxious. When the child’s language skills allow him or her to remember and name the hidden person, add a favorite toy or another person so the child can practice remembering more than one person.