What Can We Do in the Meantime?

Once children have learned about leaving, you want them to learn about returning. Separation/return games, and short practice separations are quite helpful. The classic separation/return games are peek-a-boo and Where’s the Baby?

I like playing peek-a-boo with the feet. With the baby lying on his back, lift his legs “up, up, up” to hide your face, and then “Peek-a-boo!” as you open his legs wide. Often babies love to open their legs themselves to find you.

In Where’s the Baby?, you drop a lightweight cloth over your baby’s head and ask, “Where’s the baby?” Now pull the cloth off again, grinning and saying, “There you are!” Soon your baby will delight at pulling the cloth off and laughing. The cloth can also be placed over your own head, or you can partially hide behind a chair or around a corner where you will be discovered easily.

Hiding and finding objects is another fun form of separation/return play. Place them under clothes or buckets, anywhere the baby can delight in finding them.

With practice separations, tell your baby that you will be going to another room and that you’ll be back soon (even though the baby will not understand the words yet). If there’s crying, repeat the reassurance that you’ll be back soon. Then, pop back in smiling and say, “Hello.” “Bye-bye” is one of the first words most babies learn. We want to teach them to understand “hello” as soon as you can. Gradually make these practice separations longer and longer. The baby will learn that you’ll come back and that it’s okay when you are gone for a bit.

This is an excerpt from: From First Kicks to First Steps: Nurturing Your Babys Development from Pregnancy Through the First Year of Life, McGraw-Hill, 2004, pp. 284-285


Published on: February 16, 2006
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Dr. Greene is a practicing physician, author, national and international TEDx speaker, and global health advocate. He is a graduate of Princeton University and University of California San Francisco.
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