Object Permanence

What is object permanence?

Object permanence is a developmental milestone where a child understands that an object continues to exist, even if it cannot be seen, heard, felt or smelled. It teaches them more about the world around them and to predict what will happen next. It also helps them overcome the fear that when something like a toy is taken away, it can come back. This transfers to them knowing that if a parent or caregiver leaves the room, they will come back and helps with separation anxiety as they get older and start school.

At about 8 months the true sense of object permanence emerges. At this stage, if the child puts an object down and turns away, they are capable of finding it again. Also, if an object is hidden under a sheet, the child can find it easily. After this stage, the child begins to understand that if a ball is dropped in a box with a hole, it will come out through the other side. That’s where the curious cub permanence box comes in. Read more about it below.

4 ways to play with the concept of object permanence

1. Peek a boo 2 months+

This is a game that can be played with your child right from when they are only a few weeks old. Use play scarves to provide your child with a variation of this game. You can simply put the scarf over your head (covering your face) and reveal saying peek a boo in a dramatic voice. Watch your child try to mimic you doing this. 

2. Object Permanence Box 7 months + 

The curious cub level 4 play kit has an object permanence box. Drop the box in the hole and observe your child’s reaction. Repeat a few times and your child might show interest in having a turn. When the child drops the ball in the box, it automatically comes out through the other side. However, the next playkit has a box where the child drops the ball and has to pull the drawer to open it and find the ball. This enables the child to build on a skill they were previously working on developing. 

3. Treasure hunt 10 months+

Fill a shallow bucket with water and add a drop of black food coloring. Add some textured balls or objects (that are not choking hazards) in the water. Encourage your child to dip their hands in the bucket to find the objects. Place a towel besides the bucket for your child to put the wet objects on to prevent it from getting too messy. 

4. Guess the bowl 12 months +

Put your baby’s favorite toy under one of the nesting bowls from level 4 montessori box. Your child has to predict which bowl the object is in. Encourage them to tap the bowl, and then open the tapped bowl. If it's empty, prompt your child to tap the other. Do this over and over and notice that oftentimes your child will first choose the bowl that last had the object. You will also notice how your child takes a moment to think about which bowl it might be in before they pick one.


    While trying any of these activities, be patient with your child. They may or may not get it right away. Respect the time they need. Model instead of doing it for them, play with them instead of playing for them. After introducing these activities to your child, place them on a shelf which is low enough for them to crawl to and access independently. Model and encourage putting toys back once done.

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