Sensitive Periods

This week, I would love to talk to you about Sensitive Periods.
Sensitive periods are uncontrollable impulses toward specific activities. These limited
periods of time are temporary and as much as they seem to happen around the same time of life for every child worldwide, it is observation of each child that will guide us. It will help us know which inner need has to be fulfilled in a certain time frame and how to take advantage of these sensitivities to help the child learn easily.
Sensitive periods are essential to the child’s growth and it is of utmost importance that adults prepare an environment for the child in order to respect these sensitive periods.
This work the child does during a sensitive period is effortless and she is not doing it voluntarily, which makes the acquisition easier on the child who does not feel tired but on the contrary happy, satisfied and enthusiast.
EM Standing who worked closely with Maria Montessori says in his book:
“The intense and prolonged activity aroused and sustained by a sensitive period does not cause fatigue; rather the reverse. After a spell of work done at the imperious bidding of this inner urge the child feels better, stronger, calmer.[…] By mean of such work he has been creating himself.”

In the first few months of a baby’s life, we notice a need for things to be in a certain place and for people to feed them, bathe them and put them to bed at a certain time. It helps them organise the world around them. This need comes back in an important sensitive period for order around the age of 2 until 4 years old.
During this sensitive period the child will order the world around her and will learn and like to organise, classify in categories and she will need to find things in specific, organised places to fulfill her need.

Starting from birth the child is fascinated by language, this sensitive period is the longest of all:

“If we make small but distinct movements with our lips, the child will become very attentive.
This is something, which fascinates him, for what is developing in him is his awareness of a task he must accomplish-he is becoming sensitive to language.” Maria Montessori
Communication through speech settles and the child progresses fast as she is using language to interact. It is, therefore, important to talk to the child to model speech.
Between 2 and 3, the child will have a ‘language explosion’. It is very observable as the
child will multiply the number of words she can say in a peak of spoken language, she will also start making full sentences to express herself.

Children use their senses from birth and even before in the womb, they can hear, taste,
touch. The baby uses her senses to adapt to the world around and it is important to provide opportunities for the child to develop his senses.
Around 2.5 years old until 4, the child goes through a sensitive period for the refinement
of her senses. This is when the child enters the Montessori casa dei bambini (Children’s house from 3-6 years old) and will use the sensorial material which will help her appreciate the beauty of the world she lives in. The prepared environment is of utmost importance at that time as it answers the child’s needs to touch, smell, taste, see and hear.

Movement is crucial to grow and adapt to the world around us. The sensitive period for
movement has a peak during the first year of the child’s life and then another one between 3 and 6 years old. As the child grows and moves, her movements are more and more precise, so she can walk, run, jump and then later, climb, hit, kick or dance. Movement is important for body awareness (intellectual growth) and adaptation to the world we live in. It is also crucial to move for our mind to be at ease.
At first the movements of the young baby are not organised so as the child grows and
goes through the sensitive period for movement, she coordinates them to be able to do what her mind needs and wants; therefore, it is related to the control of the mind (intellect).
Providing opportunities for movement outdoors is very important; however, there are
also opportunities in the classroom for the child to move through Practical Life exercises. This all helps the child become more independent.

I hope this post helps to understand how we observe the Sensitive Periods in children in our Montessori world. We always need parents to tell us what they see at home as well so we can help the child even better.

Have a great winter weekend !

5 thoughts on “Sensitive Periods

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