The development of a baby’s memory is also known as Object Permanence and basically means that the baby has developed a memory. This is an extremely important intellectual milestone and can be encouraged in several ways.
A small baby sees the world as a mass of images and sensations. When looking at an object, she will focus on it briefly and then move on to the next object that captures her attention. Once the first object is out of sight it is basically out of mind. So, if you take a toy from her and hide it behind your back, it no longer exists for her and she won’t bother to look for it. Gradually though, she starts to hold images in her mind for longer periods of time until it becomes noticeable at about 6 months. You will notice it when you take a toy from her; your baby will look for it and may even cry for it. This shows that she remembers that just a second ago she had something interesting in her hand and now it is gone.
This is a very early form of symbolic thought and memory and we encourage it by playing certain games. As your baby approaches 1 year, she will get very upset when you leave the room. This is known as separation anxiety and peaks at about 12 months. The following games will help your baby to learn that mom or an object may disappear for a while but will come back again:
Peek – a – Boo – In this game you hide yourself away behind a cloth or book or even a toy. You then pop up all excited to see your baby. Your baby will respond with glee and this will be her favourite game for years. The time that you hide away can gradually become longer and longer.
Hiding toys – Where did it go? Hide a small toy in your hand or behind your back and get your baby to look for it. Praise her when she finds it.
Hide and seek – Crawling babies love to play hide and seek. You hide behind the couch, call her name until she finds you. This progresses into the real game later on