Object Permanence – A Major Mental Leap

Object Permanence – A Major Mental Leap

The Montessori object permanence box provides a way for infants to develop their sense of object permanence right when they are primed to. Some time between eight and ten months of age, infants begin to comprehend that an object exists even when they no longer see it. This is one of the major cognitive developments that happens during the first year of life. An object permanent box is a great way to support this period of mental growth.

Now I See it, Now I Don’t

When babies are born, they have no concept that anything exists other than what they can see in front of them. When a toy is removed or hidden under a blanket, it ceases to be, at least according to the baby. Likewise, when a person leaves the room, they are no longer part of reality.


Transitioning from the idea that the world consists of what one can perceive is actually a slow process that develops throughout childhood and young adulthood. A fully developed adult can see how his personal choices and actions may affect the world at large and with this in mind, he sees himself as responsible for making good decisions. We wouldn’t expect the same of a five-year-old, who is just learning to take into account the feelings of others. But it starts much more basic than even that. The first big step in this kind of thinking is simply grasping the fact that an object continues to exist when it is out of sight or out of the scope of the other four senses.

When Do Babies Develop Object Permanence?

If you have ever seen an infant cry for its mother, you may be wondering how it is that they don’t have object permanence. A newborn baby will cry out to get its needs met. It is the feeling of being uncomfortable that prompts the cry, and that need being met by a loving, familiar adult that stops it. This is quite different from separation anxiety, which begins somewhere around six to seven months of age. Little ones may start to call for their parents who are attempting to drop them off at daycare. This is a sign that object permanence is beginning to develop.

When you see this start, and when baby can sit independently, it’s time to introduce the object permanence box.

How To Use the Object Permanence Box

The object permanence box is a box with a hole in the top through which a small ball can be dropped. A drawer can then be opened from the front and the ball retrieved. If you introduce this work at the right time, you will see your little learner complete the work cycle repeatedly and with much fascination.

The concept that an object still exists while it cannot be seen is reinforced by the fact that the ball is not visible after it has been dropped in. The fact that it can be retrieved not only proves this, but it also supports the idea that when things go away, they also come back. This is very helpful with separation anxiety.

After a baby has mastered the object permanence box, it is time to introduce the coin box. The coin box is very similar to the object permanence box and it builds on the same concept. The difference is that it has a slot where coins can be dropped in, and multiple coins are included. Dropping the coins into the slot supports motor skill development while the fact that there are several of them further advances the concept of object permanence.

The object permanent box serves many purposes. It engages the child’s focus, by tapping into their current mental stage. It builds fine motor skills such as the ability to grasp and manipulate small objects. It even reduces anxiety by reinforcing the comforting fact that while things still exist when they are gone, that also means that leaving is temporary.