Admittedly this has been out in Althea’s room for a few weeks now but so far she has only shown an interest in the red ball (and any other ball shaped object she can get her hands on). But this week I have put it on her low shelf.
In case you’re not familiar with the Infant Imbucare box, it is a traditional montessori material used to develop the concept of object permanence i.e. Knowing that an object or person still exists when out of sight, which usually develops somewhere between 8 and 12 months. Piaget included the development of object permanence in his Sensorimotor Phase, which involves the infant exploring their world and gaining understanding and concepts through the use of movement and their senses. Maria Montessori’s idea of a sensitive period for movement (from birth to 4 years of age) and a sensitive period for refinement of the senses (from birth to 5 years old) marries up nicely with Piagets developmental stages.
One of the things I love about Montessori is that the traditional materials are designed in a way that isolates one concept for the infant or child to work on. A lot of modern toys have numerous functions, which I feel, for young children in particular, can be quite confusing and even overwhelming. I see a lot of ‘posting’ toys which also have flashing lights or noises which can be extremely distracting and overstimulating. In my experience Althea will play just as long, if not longer with a simple material with one function (an no batteries!).
The Imbucare box is typically given to the infant once they are able to sit. In Montessori and RIE this is when an infant can sit independently. One of the principles of these philosophies is to respect the child’s natural development of movement and not prop them into a sitting position.
When I first introduced this material at around 8 months, I demonstrated how to use it. I made sure my movements were slow and deliberate and I did not say anything. It is natural to want to explain what we are doing but for very young children this can be extremely distracting. It took Althea a little while to try this action herself and it is only now at 9 months that she will copy me. She is not yet using it on her own. From what I have observed it seems to be the case that she is just not that interested in posting objects yet. At the moment she is too busy enjoying taking out and emptying activities, shaking objects, throwing balls, exploring things with her mouth, turning pages in her board books and crawling.
Nevertheless at around 8 months you could see that she was starting to grasp the concept of object permanence. For instance if a ball rolls underneath something she will seek it out or if you deliberately hide an object she will look for it. In addition to this her separation anxiety seems to have eased somewhat, she will quite happily let me leave the room or will leave the room herself. This is probably in part to do with the fact that she is beginning to understand that I still exist beyond her senses and that I do come back. Around the same time she also learnt to crawl, so now when I walk out of a room it probably feels a lot less like abandonment because she can make the choice to follow me.
Once she shows more interest in posting objects and putting in/taking out I’d like to add an Imbucare box with a draw or door and boxes that focus on posting one shape such as a cylinder.
Have you used an Imbucare Box with your little one? When did you introduce it and how useful do you think it has been? I would love to hear your experiences and thoughts!