Learning About Object Permanence

Disclosure: This blog contains affiliate links which I may earn a small commission from if you purchase through them, at no extra cost to you.

Peek a Boo! Peek a Boo! This is an exchange that has been played and loved by almost every parent and child I know. While it is fun and interactive, it is also a great game to play to build turn taking skills, communication skills and object permanence.

What is Object Permanence?

Object permanence is the knowing that an object still exists even though it may not be seen.

Studies show that object permanence plays a vital role in cognitive development from birth until 2 years of age. Object permanence develops along with visual and motor dexterity. It requires the child to form a mental representation of the object in their mind then be able to make a decision based on the image to reach full object permanence.

The Stages of Object Permanence

0-4 Months :

With limited vision, newborn babies are not really aware of the presence of objects or when objects are removed from sight. They are aware of what they see at each moment, with no memory of it once it is out of sight.

Between 3 and 4 months with refined vision and more control over previously reflexive movements, they will begin to follow objects and express joy when seeing them. However once they are removed, the objects won’t be missed as to the child. The object simply does not exist to them anymore.

4-8 Months :

At this age, our babies are gaining more control over their bodies and their vision is improving. They will start to reaching and grasping for objects that they can see and also those that are partially hidden.

If the toy is completely covered, the child will make no attempt to recover it. This is exciting for parents as we can actually watch our child beginning to understand object permanence!

8-12 Months :

Typically during this stage your child would have developed the ability to recognise that an object will continue to exist even though they cannot see it.

Even if a toy is completely hidden under a blanket, the child will look for it the last place they saw it. Parents will often notice their child will get anxious when they venture into another room or go out of the child’s view.

The child recognises that their parents still exist even though they are out of sight and therefore get upset.

Talking to your child when going into another room and games of peek-a-boo will help them find comfort in knowing that you are not far away and will return to them shortly.

12-18 Months :

After lots of practise, your child should be able to easily recover an object that has been hidden where they saw it last.

At 18 months a child should be able to find an object that has been hidden, reclaimed and then re-hidden in a different spot. The child will remember common locations for the object and be able to adjust their search to locate it!

Full object permanence is typically reached around 18 months of age. A child is able to:

  1. Envision an object in their mind from memory
  2. Recognise that the object does exist outside their physical perceptions
  3. Understand that the object could possibly be in numerous locations when missing

What can parents do to help?

The way our children build their knowledge is through experience and perception of their environments. These first few years are paramount for developing skills such as memory, imagining, creativity, deductive reasoning and planning. All these skills stem from object permanence.

Engage your child in play to encourage your child to develop and reach this essential milestone!

Activities to Promote Object Permanence

  • Partially hide toys under a blanket
  • Put toys into an empty tissue box for your child to receive
  • Gift wrap toys for your child to unwrap
  • Hide toys behind your back and then reveal them again

Trying to get through the day with baby needing you by their side is challenging. Please be assured that while, it is a difficult time, it is also a normal part of their development.

The days seem long but the years go by so quickly. The dishes and folding can wait. Your baby wont be little forever!

Dani D x

Disclosure: This Blog does contain affiliate links which I may earn a small commission from if you purchase through them, at no extra cost to you.

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