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DIY Montessori Inspired Object Permanence Box for baby & infants

 

Do-it-yourself Object Permanence Box for infants: Inspired by Montessori materials.

  • This is practically free to make. You just need some cardboard, glue or tape, and a ball

 

DIY Montessori inspired object permanence box for baby/infants. Costs practically nothing to make. baby-brain.co.uk

 

DIY Montessori inspired object permanence box for baby/infants. Costs practically nothing to make, so many learning benefits. baby-brain.co.uk

How we made the box

Inspired by Montessori materials and activities, I’d always wanted an object permanence box but didn’t really want to spend £40 or so on the wooden box. So – I decided to try and make one out of cardboard and old boxes and it seemed to work. My Little Lovely (LL) really enjoys using it, putting the ball and other items in the top, exploring the box and seeing what happens if he puts the ball in the other hole.
Aims of the object permanence box: The infant has to drop a ball into the hole in the top of the box. The ball is then not visible for a moment but rolls out of the box onto the tray. The child therefore experiences a lesson in “object permanence” because they see that the ball didn’t just disappear out of existence – even though they couldn’t see it for a second, it still exists
Other learning benefits of the box: encourages curiosity, cause and effect, hand movements and fine motor skills (dropping the ball into the hole, etc), achieving a goal independently with repeated practice.
When to use the box: From when babies are old enough to sit up without support.
Here’s a short video of what the real deal looks like, as used by a 9 month old, and another of a child at nearly 1 year

 

Psychology & Object Permanence: Object Permanence is an awareness that children develop where “out of sight” does not mean “out of mind”. Initially, when something is removed from view of the baby then from their understanding it ceases to exist – they can’t see it, so it doesn’t exist. Understanding that something exists even when you can’t see it is an important developmental stage, according to the Stages of Cognitive Development as posed by Jean Piaget, an eminent and Swiss psychologist. It is posed as a stage in development because it requires the child to form a “schema”, or mental representation of the object. Infants develop this skill by the end of the “sensorimotor stage”. It was thought to develop around 8-12 months, although there is research to suggest it can develop earlier, and the psychological research does not seem to agree on exact age.

 

How to make the box:

DIY Montessori inspired object permanence box for baby/infants. Costs practically nothing to make, so many learning benefits. baby-brain.co.uk

1: I found a long cardboard box and cut some of the sides down so that I had a long, not too deep tray for the ball to run into and be contained.
2: An old tea box looked good for the little box to house the ball. I cut a hole in the top and on the front for the ball to run out of.
3: The ball needed a bit of help rolling out of the tea box and onto the cardboard tray so I made a little ramp (otherwise the ball just sat in the box after being dropped in and didn’t roll out). This was actually part of the lid from the tea box and was already slanted so I didn’t need to do much to it.
I then slotted the ramp into the tea box and glued the tea box onto the long box. You might be able to see in picture 2, there are some little flaps on the bottom of the box on each side. This was quite helpful and I put the glue on these flaps then pressed it down onto the long cardboard tray.

 

DIY Montessori inspired object permanence box for baby/infants. Costs practically nothing to make, so many learning benefits. baby-brain.co.uk
4: I realised that the box was looking a bit DIY so for some reason I decided to make it look more hideous by adding some wrapping paper.
5: et voilà – here is the finished box (not particularly Montessori style with the wrapping paper)

 

  • If you would like to make your box look more hideous with wrapping paper like I did, I would not recommend anything too busy like the one I used. Maybe just some plain, nice calming colours?
  • If I made it again I would also probably find a slightly bigger box for the ball to drop into. The tea box was ok but the ball rolled out of it pretty quickly, so maybe something a bit bigger might have held the ball out of sight for slightly longer. The tray is also slightly long, but I was using materials just hanging around the house that were waiting to go for recycling so I had to make do with what was available.

 

How to use the box with baby: 

I quote from a Montessori site:

Presentation of the Montessori Object Permanence Box

1. Put the work mat in place and put the object permanence box on the work mat so it will be in front of the child. Encourage the child to help.

2. Sit facing the child with the work mat between you.

3. Name the box and the ball: “This is the box. This is the ball.”

4. Slowly and deliberately place the ball in the hole.

5. When the ball rolls to a stop in the tray, smile and pick it up.

6. Repeat the action.

7. Invite the child to place the ball in the hole.

8. Once the child begins putting the ball in the hole, quietly move aside and allow her to work undisturbed.

9. When finished, invite the child to put the materials away on a low shelf so she may work with them again when she wishes.

 

And here we are experiencing the box:

(age 12 months)

DIY Montessori inspired object permanence box for baby/infants. Costs practically nothing to make, so many learning benefits. baby-brain.co.uk

Baby using the object permanence box

 

Apologies to Montessori enthusiasts – I know that you value natural materials like wood, but i’m not a carpenter and couldn’t make a box out of wood. I also know that adding wrapping paper doesn’t make it look too natural. But, hopefully I’ve captured the essence of the box, the principles and learning benefits for the child, and made an accessible and cheap alternative that can be put together easily at home.

Research on reading: vocabulary benefits. Oh and our baby health review

reading with baby, research shows link between reading for pleasure and vocabulary. baby-brain.co.uk

Free stuff from our child health review; toothbrush and books

We went for a health review today as the Little Lovely is NEARLY A YEAR OLD (almost unbelievable).
Anyway, as part of that we got some free stuff from the government. Booty! Yes, we got a free toothbrush, toothpaste and a bookstart kit that included 2 baby board books, some nursery rhymes and a booklet with a £1 book voucher in it. So, looks like government wants to develop a generation of book readers with good teeth. Sounds alright to me I suppose!

So when I got home, I looked up the bookstart website and had a look around their site. Came across some interesting research on their research blog about the benefits on vocabulary of reading for pleasure. They write:

 

 

 

Reading for pleasure in childhood has big vocabulary benefits later in life

 

This research from the Institute of Education looks at how vocabulary scores change between ages 16 to 42.

 

The findings show that the frequency of reading for pleasure is positively linked with vocabulary scores, and what people read matters just as much as how often they read.

“Those who regularly read for pleasure at age 10 scored 67% in the vocabulary test at age 42, whereas those who didn’t read regularly aged 10 scored 52%.

– Regular readers tended to have higher vocabulary scores at age 10 and 16

 

– Regular childhood readers (measured at age 10 and age 16) were still 9 percentage points ahead at age 42.

 

 

– The researchers speculate that regular childhood readers are likely to have picked up ‘good reading habits’ which continued into adulthood.

 

– The type of reading material also made a difference: the greatest gains in vocabulary scores were seen in those who read ‘highbrow’ fiction.

Based on information from bookstart research blog, The Institute of Education news (read their article here) and Sullivan and Brown, 2014. Vocabulary from adolescence to middle-age, Centre for Longitudinal Studies, Working Paper 2014/7

Return to the baby lab – we’re infant scientists, again! (psychological research participant)

The Little Lovely, (age 11m 2 weeks) acted as a baby research participant again.

infant psychological research participant @the baby lab. Taking part in the study with EEG hat

Taking part in another research study

I wrote a few months ago about how we took part in some psychological research (i’m an infant scientist) at the Birkbeck BabyLab and Centre for Brain and Cognitive Development. LL took part in a study that was looking at which parts of the brain were responsible for understanding others’ beliefs. He wore some fancy headgear which I assume was supposed to detect which areas of the brain become activated and “light up”, when looking at some video clips during the study.
Well, we got a call asking if we would like to take part in another project. LL seemed to like it the first time so we went back. This was a different study and the headgear was slightly different. Fortunately, Mr Bear was on hand to model the new “hat” and tell us all about it and whether LL would like to wear it himself (pics left, and below)

 

What is this EEG hat thing?

The information sheet from the baby lab says that our brain cells communicate with each other using faint electric signals. We can “eavesdrop” on the communication by placing an array of sensors on the head that can pick up the natural activity of the person’s brain (EEG, electroencephalogram). The netted “hat” used (as shown on Mr Bear below, and later pictures by LL) is specifically designed for babies and can help researchers achieve a detailed “map” of the working brain. It’s safe and only monitors brain activity, a bit like a thermometer, it only measures what’s going on – it can take your temperature but can’t change it at all.

 

baby-brain.co.uk infant psychological research participant @the baby lab. bear shows EEG
Mr Bear shows us how to wear the EEG hat

 

The study: We’re ready to learn!

infant psychological research participant @the baby lab. Taking part in the study with EEG hat
Another day, another fancy hat
The researcher put the EEG net on LL, while another one distracted him with some toys. He didn’t seem to mind it at all and was not in any distress or discomfort. We then went into a room with a television screen. LL sat in a high chair and watched video clips of two women pointing to an object and naming it. One woman always named a familiar object correctly, the other incorrectly. Then, LL saw videos of only one of the women naming novel objects.
What was the aim of the study? The aim was to help us understand more about how infants prepare themselves to learn new information, and will enable further research into how infants seek information and how expectancy of information affects learning.
The idea behind the study was, as adults we learn best when we are interested in what we are learning. When we know we are about to be taught something we prepare so that we can process and remember as much as possible. This “readiness to learn” can be reflected in brain states, the intensity of which can be used to predict how well the information will be learned. This study was looking at these brain states reflecting “readiness to learn”.
When LL watched the video, the lab was observing his eye movement using an eyetracker and brain activation using the EEG.
The eye movement findings will help to establish whether infants preferred the informing or mis-informing woman in the videos. With the EEG – if infants learn to expect reliable information from one of the women, and not the other, we should see increased activation when the informing adult is present compared to when the mis-informing adult is present.

 

infant psychological research participant @the baby lab. Taking part in the study with EEG hat
In the study room – what’s going on?

 

Again, we got to contribute to a study that will tell us more about infant brain development and behaviour, and it was a fun afternoon out for us. The place was very baby friendly, and set up for us, of course.
And after all his hard work, LL got to have a nice play with some toys, oh and another free T-shirt! Then, he was quite tired and so had a nice sleep on the way home.

 

infant psychological research participant @the baby lab. Taking part in the study with EEG hat
A well deserved play and nap after taking part in the research

psychological research: Do babies understand speech?

Do babies understand speech? What does the psychological research say - yes! Infant verbal understanding

Do babies understand speech?

I saw this interesting research paper today (1) about whether babies as young as 6 months understand that speech is used to communicate information (rather than random, interesting sounds that come out of our mouths).

 

→ Babies at 6 months appear to understand that speech transfers information between people

Some people might think – but of course! Others might think, wow, that’s early to understand such a thing.

 

 

 

The study also mentioned that:
  • Previous research (2, 3) has shown that 12 month old children can understand that speech transfers information, even when the speech is unknown or a new experience for them.
  • By 6 months, babies prefer speech over other sounds (4)
  • They also associate speech as coming from people, rather than other animals, for example (5)

 

What the experiment did:

The researchers looked at:

  • Whether 6 month olds could recognise that speech can communicate something about an object.
  • In the experiment the baby watched an actor reach for one of two different objects. There was also a second person present. Next, the actor could no longer reach the objects, but the second person could
    • so they either “spoke” to the person (they actually spoke a nonsense word, not a real conversation)
    • or made a non-speech communication (a cough).
  • The second person would then pick up one of the objects (there was a “target” object and a “non-preferred” object)
  • The results showed that babies looked at the actor for longer when they reached for the non-preferred object than the target object when they made the nonsense word, but not when when they coughed.

The study concludes that at 6 months, even though babies have a very small receptive vocabulary, infants have some abstract understanding of the communicative function of speech. This understanding may help with their development of language and knowledge.

Conclusion
Six-month olds infer that a vocalization that takes the
form of speech, even without any previously established
meaning, can communicate information about an object…….

 

…… even before knowing many words, infants can already use their understanding of the abstract role of speech in communication to evaluate the outcome of communicative interactions. (pg7)

The main points:
  • babies understand that speech is used to communicate and has a communicative function before they build their vocabularies and start to speak.
  • understanding that speech is used to communicate may happen before the child develops language, and this understanding may also provide a mechanism for early language acquisition:
  •  Babies start to learn quite early on that speech transfers information and may use this abstract understanding to learn about the meaning of individual words (6)

 

interesting!

 

References:
  1. Vouloumanos, A., Martin, A., & Onishi, K. H. (2014). Do 6-month-olds understand that speech can communicate? Developmental Science, pp 1–8
  2. Martin, A., Onishi, K.H., & Vouloumanos, A. (2012). Understanding the abstract role of speech in communication at 12 months. Cognition, 123 (1), 50 – 60. 
  3. Vouloumanos, A., Onishi, K .H., & Pogue, A. (2012). Twelve-month-old infants recognize that speech can communicate unobservable intentions. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America , 109 (32),12933 – 12937.
  4. Vouloumanos, A., & Werker, J.F. (2004). Tuned to the signal:the privileged status of speech for young infants. Develop-mental Science.  7 (3), 270-276
  5. Vouloumanos, A., Druhen, M. J., Hauser, M.D., & Huizink, A.T. (2009). Five-month-old infants’ identification of thesources of vocalizations.  Proceedings of the National Acad-emy of Sciences of the United States of America,106 (44),18867-18872.
  6. Waxman, S.R., & Leddon, E.M. (2002). Early word learning and conceptual development: everything had a name, and each name gave birth to a new thought. In U. Goswami(Ed.),The Wiley-Blackwell handbook of childhood cognitivedevelopment (pp. 102-126). Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell
For further references in relation to infant cognition and communication see this page here from the infant cognition and communication lab
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