Something you will often see in early childhood education centers is an object permanence box, like the one my very talented husband made for N. Object permanence is the understanding that when an object is covered up or hidden in some way, it hasn’t simply disappeared — it still exists. When an infant understands object permanence completely, she will work to make the object visible again. Theories vary as to when this understanding actually comes into place, but from my experience, I’ve seen it in infants anywhere between 7 and 9 months of age.
The use of the object permanence box is simple. It is just a box with a hole in the top, into which the infant must place a ball. The ball will momentarily “disappear,” but then it will roll out of a small opening into the tray in front of the box.
I took these pictures when L was just 7 months old, and she was still unable to put the ball into the hole by herself. She tried REALLY hard to get it in there, but she just didn’t have the hand-eye coordination to make it happen. I helped her put the ball in the hole.
I first put this work out when N was 6 months old, and at that point she was showing no signs of understanding object permanence. She would often look away when the ball disappeared into the hole, and every time it came out was a surprise.
By the time N was 7 months old, she understood. She had watched that ball go in one hole and come out the other many times. She knew it was still there. If the ball didn’t come immediately out of the hole, she would reach her hand in to pull it out.
Now that N understands the object permanence element of this work, we are using it as a manipulative work for her to work on hand-eye coordination and fine motor control.
I also had my husband make a drawer as an extension to this work. Soon I will have him replace the side where the ball comes out with the drawer, so N has to open the drawer to find the ball.
You can see how your child does with object permanence at home with a box like this one or by simply showing your infant a toy and then covering it up with a blanket. If your child understands object permanence (**and is interested in the toy!), she will lift up the blanket to get it.