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Here's why babies love playing peekaboo

Posted at 4:56 PM, Nov 17, 2016

Why do babies love peekaboo so much?

It may be because when you hide your face, they think it has ceased to exist. That’s according to Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget’s theories about “object permanence,” or the ability to know an object still exists even when it’s hidden.

Watching his 13-month-old nephew at play was when Piaget first noticed something unusual about the brains of babies. When the boy’s ball rolled under a table where it was still visible, he would retrieve it and keep playing. But when it rolled under the couch where it wasn’t visible, the boy looked for the ball where he had seen it last. This led Piaget to investigate exactly when babies develop object permanence.


To do this, Piaget would hide a toy under a blanket in full view of the participating child, then watch whether the child looked for the toy. If they did, it was considered evidence of object permanence. He found that very young children wouldn’t search for the toy and would instead move on to other things.

But around 8 months old, the children began reaching for the toy, leading him to conclude that children develop object permanence around 8 months of age. Since then, other studies have challenged this finding, placing the development of object permanence as early as three months of age. Even so, the fact that babies aren’t born with something that seems so automatic sheds exciting light on the human brain.

Learn more about how babies’ brains work in the videos below.

A Baby’s Demonstration of Object Permanence

His reaction is fascinating—and pretty funny, too.

Piaget’s Conservation Tasks

Piaget also laid out other developmental stages with their own characteristics. Here’s a demonstration of a four-year-old’s lack of “conservation,” or the ability to know that a quantity will stay the same despite a change in size or shape.

The Amazing Brains Of Babies

We can learn a lot by studying how babies think.

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