A person playing with their baby.

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.

How to answer: ‘What is object permanence?’

When Baby sees you take a toy away, he probably doesn’t realize that you’ll eventually bring the toy back: to 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 Baby and your familiar face. Once you’ve got his 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 Baby right in front of his 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 Baby some assurance that his favorite object is still partially there. Give him a few minutes to try pulling the cloth off the hidden object without assistance. If he has trouble working out how to free his favorite object, though, you can offer a helping hand – Baby will still learn a lot.

Now you see me, now you hear me:

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

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