Stranger Anxiety and Object Permanence

Excerpt: From Rattles to Writing: A Parent's Guide to Hand Skills

Object Permanence

One of the most popular games your baby will engage in involves dropping a toy and watching where it goes. This is a lot of fun while in the bathtub or sitting in a park. Although it gets tiresome when she flings toys or food from her highchair, remember this is just a stage. She is learning that objects can disappear and is on the road to understanding object permanence, or the realization that an object or person exists even when it is no longer visible. This means that the cookie your baby saw under the napkin is still there even if she cannot see it anymore.

Separation Anxiety

The 6 to 12 month old baby is able to think about the parent who is not in view. As your baby learns that she is a separate entity from her mother or other caregiver, she will likely develop separation anxiety, an uneasiness when the parent is out of view. Separation anxiety is the worry a child feels when separated from a caregiver, even for brief amounts of time. It can begin as early as age six or seven months, peak between twelve and eighteen months, and then start to fade toward the end of the second year.

Stranger anxiety develops at about the same time as separation anxiety perhaps because the baby is realizing that the relationship they have with the people that they spend the most time with (often the parents) is different than the relationship they have with strangers and other people they don't know well (like Pete Seeger pictured above holding my baby 35 years ago).

This stage usually coincides with the mobility of crawling or walking, which allows the child to physically separate from a loved one. This realization is powerful but scary!

Separation anxiety is normal, and it indicates that your baby has developed a healthy attachment to you. It is a clear demonstration that your baby is developing object permanence- the realization that you exist even when not seen.

Games that teach Object Permanence

Babies at this stage love social games, such as peekaboo and hide-and-seek (using a toy), because these games provide predictability- objects and faces disappear yet reappear.

Your six-to twelve- month-old child  will also develop the coordination to push a button that makes Winnie the Pooh pop up and then push his head down to make him disappear again. Toys such as this reinforce the concept of object permanence.

.....and they are super popular!


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