By this stage, most babies will understand that people and things still exist even when they can’t be seen. This is called ‘object’ and ‘person’ ‘permanence’, and is linked with their developing memory skills.
Where it used to be a case of ‘out of sight, out of mind’, now they’re able to create an internal image — a picture in their ‘mind’s eye’ of the person or thing that’s currently out of their sight.
Person permanence develops before object permanence, and is closely linked to the attachment relationship with their primary caregiver.
In SKIP’s Whakatipu booklet Te Pihinga 2, ‘Guidance and understanding’ (page 23), it says:
‘…pēpi will keep checking out whether we are near and might be unhappy if he can’t see us.’
This is a sign for the whānau that their baby has developed people permanence, but doesn’t yet understand that the person will come back — and may react by getting upset. This is called ‘separation anxiety’, and is common during this development phase.
It can frustrate parents though, so helping them to understand that this is a sign of baby’s secure attachment to them might make them feel better about it.
Ask the whānau:
- What have you noticed your baby doing when they can’t see you?
- If baby protests when you’re not in view, what do you do?
- How could you help baby learn that you haven’t disappeared for good?
It can ease baby’s distress if parents keep talking to them so they can at least hear mum or dad, even if they can’t see them.
Telling baby that they’re coming back will help baby to learn that they haven’t gone forever.
Games like ‘peekaboo’ are perfect for showing baby that a person can disappear and then suddenly reappear again.
Object permanence continues to develop over the first year. Parents will see baby start looking for things that have disappeared or that have been hidden from them. This could result in some enjoyable games of hiding and finding.
- What things does baby want that you aren’t happy about them having?
- How do you manage this?
- What do you do?
How does this relate to the SKIP resources?
Baby wall frieze - Whakarangatiratia ahau - make me feel special
Six things children need - Te ārahi me te māramatanga - guidance and understanding.