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M. walked towards me with a light blue play silk draped over her head. “Where M.” she stated, “Where M!” I echoed her, “Where’s M? Where is she?” She slid the silk across her face and when it fell and our eyes met, she squealed and laughed. “Again!” she demanded. M. continued to carefully drape the play silk over her head and face pursuing this game, again and again, toddling after me like a little blue ghost.

The game changed suddenly as M. pushed the silk towards me. “Where Megan,” she said, letting me know it was my turn to hide. I pulled the silk over my face and M. quickly yanked it down as she shrieked, “Where Megan!” and again fell into fits of laughter. After several rounds of this game, M. and I each taking our turns, some of the other children began to watch us and then transfer aspects of the peek-a-boo game with the play silks to the loft.

They climbed underneath and peeked out at their friends, calling “Peek-a-boo” to entice them into further games. L. and M. peeked through the stairs at each other, calling, watching, laughing. We hung more playsilks around the edge of the loft, creating a softly lit hiding space beneath, and the hiding, seeking, peeking play continued on. Later in the day their inside play was echoed in our outdoor space as the children hid in the garden, peeking out at each other and their parents from behind flowering plants and bushes.

What learning is happening here? These young children are refining their understanding of object permanence, the knowledge that one can disappear and reappear, and that they continue to exist even when they are unseen. As they wait and anticipate the reemergence of familiar faces, they are beginning to make predictions. Socially, they are developing the ability to interpret and connect meaning to facial expressions such as happiness, excitement and surprise. Further, they are noticing each other, responding to each other and learning to take turns and play with each other cooperatively.

Peek-a-boo is, of course, not a new game. It’s an oldie but a goodie. What I like to see however is the ways that it evolves over time. It’s interesting to me how the children, with little input from me, continue to change and shape the path that their play takes. I may provide them with the materials to take it to another level, but the ideas come from them and my job I feel is to be responsive; to notice, reflect and respond to their ideas and their lead. They are so good at this! So capable and confident.