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3 Activities to Help Develop Object Permanence Skills

Jun 02nd, 2024 | by Serena Patel, PT, DPT

Serena Patel, PT, DPT

June 02nd, 2024

Have you ever played peek-a-boo with your child? They think you’re a magician when you re-appear from behind your hands and want to keep seeing it happen over and over again. While it’s all fun and games, you are also teaching your child an important concept, called “object permanence.”

What is Object Permanence?

Put simply, object permanence is the idea of knowing that objects still exist even if you can’t see or hear them. Object permanence was originally developed by Jean Piaget, a psychologist who specialized in the theory of cognitive development and intellectual development of children.

At What Age Does Object Permanence Typically Develop?

Object permanence is an important developmental milestone your child will learn in their first year of life. It is the first step to other types of understanding and reasoning, such as pretend play, language development, and memory development, which will advance later in life.

Activities to Help Build Your Child’s Object Permanence Skills

Some classic ways to help your child understand object permanence:

  • Peek-a-boo
  • Cover your head with a blanket or pillow and move closer to your child. See if they attempt to remove the blanket or obstruction to find you again!
  • Hiding some of their favorite toys under a blanket: See if your child attempts to remove the blanket on their own to uncover the toy.
  • Books with pop-ups or flaps: These objects are not apparent when the page opens; encourage the child to uncover the hidden secrets!
Find 5 board books for toddlers recommended by a speech therapist in this blog post!

Object Permanence and ADHD: Is There a Connection?

While object permanence is not a core symptom of ADHD, many individuals with the condition have reported difficulties with this concept. At this time, there is no strong evidence to support this, and is based solely on theory and personal testimony. Individuals with ADHD struggle with remembering tasks or events that are outside of their current perspective, which may relate to difficulties with object permanence.

Examples of Poor Object Permanence in Children with ADHD:

  • Failing to complete tasks – May become distracted by other things and completely forget about the original task. May see examples of this when asked to complete chores or perform tasks from memory versus a physical list.
  • Dysregulation when unable to find something – A child may display these symptoms because they believe the item is gone forever and do not attempt to look for it independently.
  • Feeling overwhelmed when a parent leaves the room – They may believe that the person may never come back or no longer exists.
In this blog, NAPA pediatric therapists discuss object permanence, potential links to ADHD, and activities to help develop the skill.

Examples of Poor Object Permanence in Adults with ADHD:

  • Insecure attachments in relationships – May affect both professional and personal relationships as responsibilities are forgotten unintentionally resulting in lack of trust within the connection.
  • Spending less time with friends and family – May forget to keep in touch via phone call, email or text.
  • Buying extra products – If they are unable to find items in the house, they may purchase again because they believe it does not exist in the home.
  • Forgetting to pay bills – While this is hard enough for anyone, those struggling with object permanence have a more difficult time as it is “out of sight, out of mind” until the due date.

Tips for Individuals Struggling with Object Permanence

Some tips for individuals coping with object permanence deficits:

  • Set visual reminders: Using sticky notes or writing on a calendar may help to remind one of their responsibilities. While phone reminders are helpful, they may not serve their purpose as the alert goes away once dismissed. Using a planner or daily checklists can help to tackle all tasks in a timely manner.
  • Exercise! Regular mobility has great effects on memory and cognitive abilities. Remember, you can always improve your memory!
  • Don’t open text messages until you are ready to respond! The visual notification will serve as a reminder to respond later.
  • Keep a Routine: Setting up a regular cleaning schedule can help keep the home organized and avoid unnecessary purchases. It can also help to give a sense of accomplishment when there are other responsibilities to handle.

Find Additional Resources in the NAPA Blog:

About NAPA Center

At NAPA Center, we take an individualized approach to pediatric therapy because we understand that each child is unique with very specific needs. We embrace differences with an understanding that individualized programs work better. For this reason, no two therapeutic programs are alike. If your child needs our services, we will work closely with you to select the best therapies for them, creating a customized program specific to your child’s needs and your family’s goals. Let your child’s journey begin today by contacting us to learn more.

About the Author

Serena Patel is a pediatric physical therapist at NAPA Center Los Angeles who received her DPT from Duke University. Outside of her love for kiddos, she enjoys spending time outdoors with her friends and family, reading or baking delicious goodies. Having been trained in dance, she also appreciates sharing her passion with other kids through teaching occasional classes at her old studio!

TAGS: Blogs, OT
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