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Object Permanence - The Power of Peek-a-Boo

When your baby is first born there is an entire world for them to explore, it is all very new and potentially scary. To begin with they can only understand and learn from what they can see. The entire world is in front of their eyes. So what happens when something or someone goes out of view? Do they disappear off the face of the planet? Will they ever return again? Learning that when an object is out of view it hasn’t vanished forever is part of the learning process involved in object permanence and it is an essential milestone for your child to reach. In this post we will explain what it is, how it develops and how you can help your little one understand the vastness of their world a little better.

What is Object Permanence?

If a child has developed object permanence, they have an understanding that the world is bigger than just their own vision. A child who has object permanence understands that when mummy goes into the kitchen, she has gone into the kitchen and not disappeared into thin air.

When you consider that a baby who hasn’t yet reached this milestone, believes that when mummy goes into the kitchen she might have just ceased to exist, it is easy to understand why babies get so upset when their caregiver or even their favourite toy is out of sight.

How Does Object Permanence develop?

Every baby is unique and your baby will not necessarily follow a development path described in a book but generally object permanence begins to develop around 4 – 7 months. This is only the beginning of this process though and it takes time for them to fully grasp the concept. The developing brain needs repeated experiences of things disappearing and reappearing to cement the learning. Separation anxiety is often experienced by young babies and can be fed by a lack of a grasp of the concept of object permanence, which is understandable.

As a child does start to grasp this, they also develop a small map of their surroundings; they start to recall what the kitchen looks like so when mummy goes in there, baby can not only feel assured they still exist but they know where they are and crucially that they will return.

How can you help?

Giving your baby the time to play games and engaging with them on a daily basis helps in all their development processes. Here are some examples;

  • Peek-a-Boo

This game is an old favourite and there is no need to explain it to you. It is no coincidence that this game has stood the test of time and been played for countless generations – its power to give children the experience they need of disappearing and reappearing objects (people in this case), teaches their brain the concept of object permanence.

The beauty of it is that it is quick. You disappear as quickly as you reappear and so your baby has no time to worry or stress about your vanishing act because your smiling face has appeared before them within a moment, bringing you both great joy.

  • Hide and Seek

This is a great game to play but you need at least another person so that one of you can stay and count with the little one and the other can hide (or vice versa). You can bring dad in on the action but older siblings or other children will adore this game as much as the baby.

As with Peek-a-boo, the game itself is so simple and traditional it takes no explanation but you may not have recognised its value to babies as young as 4 months old before now.

  • Hide and seek for toys

Simply place your baby’s favourite toy under a cushion or a towel and ask your baby to find it. When you first start playing this game, leave a little bit of the toy on display so they can see it poking out, once they start showing confidence finding it this way you can hide the toy completely.

The next level of this game is to hide it under several layers of material so that it takes longer to find it. You could also hide it somewhere less obvious without your baby watching. At this stage you are simply making it more challenging but make sure you keep the game fun and offer lots of smiles, cuddles and positive reinforcement when they make the discovery.

  • Keep communicating

When you head to the kitchen, keep talking to your baby. This helps them recognise that you are still alive! Your voice is very powerful to your baby; they learnt to recognise it before they are even born. Hearing it will soothe and reassure them before they have understood object permanence.

How can Tots Play help?

Object permanence is just one of the concepts we introduce and explore through our fun filled programme, which also includes yoga, massage, music, sign language, sensory play and more.

Each element of the class is chosen for its developmental benefits and but also to be fun and engaging for your little one. We know that young children learn best when using their whole body and all of their senses and our classes provide the opportunity to do just that, as well as to enjoy special time together and with other parents and little ones.

Small equipment and props can be great for helping to make concepts like object permanence more enjoyable and accessible for little people and you will see lots of these in use at classes. Our coloured floaty scarves and scrunchy foil blankets are ideal for peek a boo and hide and seek games, and you can pick these simple, inexpensive items up at class or order via our online shop if you would like to carry on the fun and learning at home.

Find a class near you

Tots Play classes are held nationwide and are suitable for babies and toddlers from birth to around 3 years. You can learn more about the Tots Play programme HERE and find a class near your click HERE.

Or start your own!

No classes near you yet? Why not start your own! The Tots Play franchise programme offers the opportunity to run your own, family friendly, business delivering Tots Play classes in your local area. Take a look HERE to find out more.

However you and your little ones are playing and learning together this week enjoy that special time together. Happy Playing!

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