Famous Swiss psychologist  Piaget argued that developing an understanding of object permanence – that objects and people are still there even when out of sight – is one of the most important things for an infant to come to terms with. 

For very small infants, when something is not being seen it is as if it has ceased to exist. This is why playing games such as peek-a-boo and hiding an object under a basket or blanket holds so much appeal for babies. These are fun of course, but are also very important in teaching babies that people / objects are indeed still there even though they might be hidden momentarily. 

I have been wanting to introduce Frida to the classic Montrssori object permanence box for some time but struggled to find one which wasn’t prohibitively expensive, but was still beautiful and well made. Finally I found one on the excellent Montessori materials website Absorbent Minds

The object permanence box is a simple box with a tray attached. It has a hole for a ball, which when dropped in rolls back out onto the tray. A very simple activity but one which develops fine motor skills (grasping the ball, posting it into the hole) as well as the understanding that the ball will always come back out of the box. 

I introduced this to Frida yesterday for the first time. We sat together, and I briefly and clearly demonstrated that the ball goes into the hole, and comes back out. I showed her this three times and then invited her to do the same and stepped back. I was not at all expecting her to post the ball into the box as she has so far not shown us that she can slot objects. 


However to my surprise (and delight) she understood immediately and posted the ball into the hole. She repeated this a few times, stopping between times to investigate the box and ball, tipping the box upside down and posting the ball into the exit, and at one point even pushing herself up to standing on the box.


It seems so simple but I think for a young child who is still learning so much about the world this must be a magical activity. She certainly seems taken with it so I have moved it onto the shelves in her room.

Posted by:Eloise R

6 replies on “Developing object permanence: using the object permanence box

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