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Helping your child learn about object permanence

Thinking & Learning   |   Age: 4 months


Helping your child learn about object permanence

Understanding that a physical object still exists even when it’s no longer visible might seem obvious to us, but when it comes to babies, object permanence doesn’t usually sink in until 4 to 7 months after birth. This means that when your baby sees you take a toy away, she probably doesn’t realize that you’ll eventually bring the toy back: to your baby, that toy is gone. This can lead to confusion and crying spells. And that’s why many parents choose actively teach their babies about object permanence, instead of just waiting for them to figure it out on their own (though they eventually will) with these engaging activities.

Peek-a-boo!

An early childhood classic, peek-a-boo involves little more than your baby and your familiar face. Once you’ve got her attention, make your face disappear by covering up with both hands and then, voila! Bring it back with a big smile. Many babies and parents love this game for it is whimsy, but it also serves as a beginner’s lesson in object permanence.

Where’d it go?

Try sitting your baby right in front of her favorite toy or household object. Then, cover this object with a light cloth, but leave a small piece of the object sticking out. This will give your baby some assurance that her favorite object is still partially there. Give her a few minutes to try pulling the cloth off the hidden object without assistance. If she has trouble working out how to free her favorite object, though, you can offer a helping hand - your baby will still learn a lot.

Now you see me, now you hear me:

Once your baby seems comfortable with disappearing objects and faces, it’s time to take your object permanence demonstrations to the next level. Start talking to your baby while she is safe in her crib, and then slowly step out of the room. Remove yourself from your baby’s line of sight, and keep talking. She may become fussy at first, but the comforting sound of your voice will help her grasp that even if you’re not right there, you’re still close enough to come back in and scoop her up in both arms.


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