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Searching for hidden objects - Babies and toddlers - Educatall

Searching for hidden objects

Key experiences for babies and toddlers-Object exploration


We can say that a young child has acquired object permanence when he can remember an object exists when he can no longer see it.


Perform a simple test. Show a child a popular toy. Hide it under a blanket as he watches. Observe the child's reaction. If the child attempts to lift the blanket to grab hold of the toy, it is safe to say that he understands object permanence, at least partially.


Per my observations, this generally occurs between the ages of 10 and 14 months.


The following information was found on Wikipedia.


Stages of object permanence


0-1 month: no reaction when an object is removed from sight.
2-4 months: manifestation of emotions (cries, screams, holds out arms, etc.)
4-8 months: beginning of active experimentation, actions performed with objects and people.
8-12 months: object permanence is acquired more and more, children can find an object that is completely hidden, but are unable to understand that an object moves, even when its concealment is observed.
12-18 months: object permanence when an object is moved while children are watching.
18-24 months: definitive acquisition of object permanence, children can understand visible and invisible displacement.


Respecting each child's rhythm
The suggested ages and stages of object permanence are guidelines. If a child seems to be going through the stages more slowly, it's fine. Keep in mind that children learn at their own pace.


Where are my parents?
The absence of object permanence can explain why children cry when they no longer see their mother or father. As they acquire object permanence, they slowly begin to understand that their parents continue to exist even if they cannot see them. Children realize their parents are gone, but may wonder if they will come back. This is linked to separation anxiety. I once had an 11-month old in my group who would cry very loudly whenever I would leave the room for more than two minutes, even if I called out to him from the next room...


Playing with object permanence
I have many activity suggestions to share with you. Each of them will help you work on the following key experience: searching for objects that are hidden.


I have divided these activities into three sections:

  • Searching for an object that is partially hidden.
  • Searching for hidden objects.
  • Searching for objects concealed within view.

Activities that involve searching for an object that is partially hidden


The following activities will help young children acquire object permanence by providing them with the opportunity to search for items that are hidden, but still partially visible.


Scarf chain
Knot three or four scarves together to form a long chain. Insert the scarves in your sweater, leaving part of the first scarf visible. Encourage a baby or toddler to pull on it. He will enjoy discovering the scarf chain. This silly activity is ideal during diaper changes.


Soap and bubbles
Fill a large container with water and add a few drops of bubble bath. Stir the water to make bubbles appear and add floating objects to the container. Children will enjoy plunging their hands in the water to grab the objects that will be partially hidden among the bubbles.


Semi-transparent blankets
Here is a great way to partially hide objects. Use blankets that you can see through. For example, use tulle or sheer curtains. As children watch, deposit your semi-transparent blankets on top of various objects.
Variation: Use your semi-transparent blankets for a simple peek-a-boo game. Deposit the fabric over your head. When a child pulls on the fabric, say "peek-a-boo".


Hide under opaque fabric with your limbs showing
Hide under opaque fabric, but leave one or more limbs sticking out. For example, hold your arms out and wave them around to attract children's attention or, if you prefer, kick your legs in every direction. You may also hide with a child.


Listen for the alarm clock
With older toddlers, have fun "hiding" a sound. Set an alarm clock to ring just a few minutes later and hide it within your daycare. When the alarm rings, encourage children to search for the partially hidden alarm clock.


Hidden music
Hide behind a couch or another furniture item with a rattle or musical instrument such as a tambourine. Use the rattle or instrument to produce a sound and attract toddlers' attention. If you wish, hide with one or two toddlers and give them rattles or instruments too. They can help you produce louder music.
Variation using your voice: Sing or speak to attract children's attention.


Activities that involve searching for hidden objects


The following activities will be interesting for children who are beginning to recognize hidden objects. At first, hide objects while children are watching.


Playing hide-and-seek is perfect for developing this key experience. There are many ways to play. You can either hide or have a child hide:

  • Under a blanket (set several blankets on a floor and have fun hiding under them).
  • In a large box.
  • Behind furniture items.
  • Under a table with a blanket draped over it.
  • Outside, behind a large rock or bush.
  • In the house, for those who have played before.
  • Behind a wall built with cushions.
  • As you have fun counting to three or five with older toddlers

Discovery bags
Hide gift bags throughout your daycare. However, bags must be on the floor and visible for younger children. Fill each bag with items children will enjoy exploring.


Surprise box
You will need a large box with a lid. Cut holes out of each side of the box, large enough for children to insert their hands. Deposit a variety of items in the box: balls, feathers, stuffed animals, etc. Invite babies and toddlers to pull them out of the box through the holes one by one.


Paint bin
Set a variety of flat items in the bottom of a container. For example, you may use plastic lids or the top of frozen juice cans. If you wish, use adhesive paper to stick an illustration on each one. Spread a thin layer of paint over the lids. Children will enjoy searching for the hidden illustrations. Set large sheets of paper under your container. Children can deposit their messy discoveries on them.


Hide and seek bins
Many items can be used to create hide and seek bins: feathers, puffed wheat cereal, sand, cotton balls, fabric pieces, tiny balls, etc. Simply hide tiny objects, such as pictures of the children in your group, among the contents of your bins. Babies and toddlers will enjoy searching for the items as they dig into the bins with their hands.


Encouraging children to hide objects on their own
Have fun hiding a variety of objects in different places with little ones. For example, you can hide objects:

  • In hats
  • Within your daycare
  • In empty tissue boxes
  • In pant pockets
  • In your sweater (for example a balloon to create a big belly)
  • Under blankets or cushions

Exploring objects concealed within view


Hide an object once and then hide it again, in a different location. Perform a simple test. Hide an object under a blanket while a toddler is watching. Transfer the object under a second blanket. Does the child continue to look for the object?


Here are other ways to play with this.


Box with two holes
You will need a small box with a lid. Cut a large hole out of the lid and a smaller hole out of the bottom of the box. Pick an object that can fit through both holes. Invite toddlers to insert the object in the first hole. Show them how they can shake the box to make the object fall out of the second hole.


Cereal and box with two holes
This activity is a great variation of the box with two holes. It's also perfect for entertaining little ones at snack time. For each child, cut a hole out of the lid of a small box and another hole out of the bottom of the box. Provide dry cereal, such as Cheerios. Encourage children to drop the cereal through the hole on the top of their box before shaking it to make the cereal fall onto the table.


A ball in a tunnel
Have fun making a ball disappear through a tunnel only to see it reappear at the other end. Simply roll a ball through a fabric play tunnel or a larger tunnel at your local playground.


Two blankets
Select a fun puppet or stuffed animal. Have fun telling children a story in which the puppet or stuffed animal hides under one blanket and then a second blanket. Have fun moving the puppet or stuffed animal from one blanket to the other.


From one home to another home
This is a variation of the "two blankets" activity. Use two plastic playhouses for figurines (or create two tiny houses using empty milk cartons). If you choose to make your own miniature houses, be sure to cut an opening in each one to represent doors. Have fun hiding plastic animals or figurines in both houses.


Through the roll
Have fun rolling balls or toy cars through empty toilet paper, wrapping paper, or paper towel rolls (supervision required). Hang them on a wall horizontally, creating a small slope. Children will love seeing the balls or cars disappear at one end and then appear at the other end. Longer rolls can also be placed on cushions to create a slope. Items will easily roll through them.


Hiding with musical instruments
Once again, hide behind a furniture item or slightly opened door with a musical instrument. Use the instrument to produce a sound. After a while, change hiding places and repeat.


Chantal Millette
Early childhood educator


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