Montessori at Home, Montessori Babies, Montessori Materials
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Montessori for Infants and toddlers: Object Permanence Skills and Imbucare Box

When you look for Montessori materials for infants and Toddlers , the most well known are the Object permanence Boxes and Imbucare Boxes.

But what is it and what does it refer to?  The object permanence boxes – whether it is wooden or an empty tissue box – is referred to as “imbucare” which is Italian for “post”, as in post a letter in a mailbox. When you put something INSIDE of something (ball in box, shell in drawer), that is imbucare.
Any activity where the child uses his hands to put something ONTO something (“infilare”) or INTO something (“imbucare”), it aids in the development of the hand which ultimately aids in the development of the brain and the flourish of neural connections.

Posting objects into boxes is a natural inclination for young children. This activity gives the child practice with hand-eye co-ordination as the soft ball is pushed through the hole. The shape is then retrieved from the front of the box in the drawer to repeat the activity over and over.

The Skill involved in these activities is the Object permanence.

Developing Object Permanence Skills in the Montessori Environment

The term object permanence is used to describe a child’s ability to know that objects continue to exist even though they can no longer be seen or heard.

Have you ever played peekaboo with an infant or toddler? Actually, this is Baby,alias #3, favourite game for the moment and her eldest sister who is 2.5 years old too. I love to hear that gurgle of laughter every time, after hiding, I appear. I also enjoy when this is baby who hides herself under her muslin and uncover to laugh.

Now, why does this game appeal so much to young children?  If you have ever played a game of “peek-a-boo” with a very young child, then you probably understand how this works. When an object is hidden from sight, infants under a certain age often become upset that the item has vanished. This is because they are too young to understand that the object continues to exist even though it cannot be seen.

Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget believed that the development of object permanence, or the ability to understand that objects exist even when not seen, is one of an infant’s primary developmental accomplishments.

Object Permanence and Piaget’s Theory of Development

The concept of object permanence plays a significant role in the theory of cognitive development created by psychologist Jean Piaget. In the sensorimotor stage of development, a period that lasts from birth to about age two, Piaget suggested that children understand the world through their motor abilities such as touch, vision, taste, and movement.

During early infancy, babies are extremely egocentric. They have no concept that the world exists separate from their point of view and experience. To understand that objects continue to exist even when they are unseen, infants must first develop a mental representation of the object.

Piaget referred to these mental images as schemas. A schema is a category of knowledge about something in the world. For example, an infant might have a schema for food, which during early infancy will be either a bottle or breast.

 As the child grows older and has more experiences, his or her schemas will multiply and become much more complex. Through the processes of assimilation and accommodation, children develop new mental categories, expand their existing categories, and even completely change their current schemas.

If you’re a parent to an older infant or young toddler, you may have noticed a newfound discovery of object permanence. Before six months or so, babies haven’t yet realized that something continues to exist when it leaves their line of vision. If an object is out of sight, it is out of mind. After a while, though, the child slowly begins to understand. The game of peek-a-boo changes when a baby starts searching for her parent’s hidden face. When she is placed in her bed for a nap, she may cry because she knows her mother is somewhere else instead of with her! And if she drops a ball into one hole of a box and it rolls out of a different hole, she is transfixed!

The object permanence box is a traditional Montessori material that is designed to foster the concept of object permanence.

Subsequent boxes, sometimes classified as “imbucare” activities (“imbucare” is the Italian word for “to post (as in a letter)”, offer more complicated tasks, and include different objects (cylinders, cubes, prisms, and coins) and openings (hinged doors, drawers, sliding doors, and lids). The underlying concept of object permanence, however, stays the same: the child places an object into an opening, and it reappears somewhere else.  There are many different imbucare boxes available for purchase, but it’s also quite simple to put together your own. I do have few of them and one of my toddler {2.5 years old} is the Imbucare Box with coins.

The Object Permanence Box – Montessori Activity and Presentation for Infants and Toddlers

The object permanence box is often found in the Montessori infant/toddler environment. It is introduced to children when they are old enough to sit up without assistance, generally around 8–12 months of age. i have just started to introduce our Object permanence Box to baby as she sits well since a month and started to develop an interest on moving objects into things. The direct aim of the material is to help children develop their sense of object permanence. It also indirectly helps them develop focus and concentration and gives them practice developing fine motor skills through the whole-hand grasp.

The first time I presented to Baby the box and worked with it, I smiled over the joy that is apparent in my little girl face. She has had few attempts but I am sure she will soon work out how to do. Plus, #2 loves using them and because of their mutual complicity, they learn from each other. #2 who is delayed gained lots of concentration thanks to the imbucare boxes. Through focused repetition, #2 has also learnt about cause and effect. It helped us a lot with her.

Lot of learning is happening when you use the object permanence box, which makes it a beneficial material to add to the shelves in your Montessori infant/toddler environment. When presenting the object permanence box, remember to keep your presentation short so you have the child’s full attention. Very few words are necessary other than naming the box and the ball, although you may also choose to introduce the words “in” and “out.”

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.

If you would like to learn more about other traditional Montessori Infant/Toddler materials, I will continue to publish about them. To keep yourself updated, you can subscribe to the blog.

You can easily DIY your own Imbucare boxes, but if like me, you struggle with having time, you can buy one. I have bought mine from




Note: I am not a Montessori teacher. I have gathered lots of informations to help my daughters and I try to share what I found to make things easier for other parents, who like me, try to implement Montessori at home but don’t know where to start. I deeply hope it helps.


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