“When a particular sensitiveness is aroused in a child, it is like a light that shines on some objects but not others, making of them his whole world” - Maria Montessori
What Are Sensitive Periods?
Sensitive periods are special times in a child’s life from birth until the age of six years, crucial for acquiring practical knowledge and important human attributes. For instance, during the Sensitive Period for Language, children are deeply drawn to all aspects of language. Skills learned in these periods, if missed, are lost forever. Children learn effortlessly from their environment, absorbing information rapidly. These periods are pivotal in personality development.
Three Fold Phenomena
Montessori categorizes each sensitive period into three parts: (a) Spontaneous Interest, (b) Repetition, and (c) Concentration.
1. Spontaneous Interest
The child's natural interest in purposeful activities satisfies vital needs.
The desire to spontaneously repeat activities of interest stimulates further engagement.
Achieved through spontaneous repetition, leading to satisfaction of inner needs and resulting in happiness, joy, and calmness. Freedom is crucial for achieving concentration, fostering total development.
Sensitive Periods in Childhood
Sensitive Period for Language
From two to six years, children show deep interest in human voices and sounds, leading to language development. This period involves three phases: Spoken, Reading, and Writing. Children start by mimicking sounds and mouth movements, progressing to letters, words, and sentences.
Sensitive Period for Co-ordination of Movement
From birth to three years, children develop gross and fine motor skills through observation and interaction with their environment. This includes crawling, walking, and using hands for various tasks. From 2.5 to 4.5 years, children refine these skills, achieving coordination through purposeful motor activity.
Sensitive period for Order
From birth to five years, children need order in their environment. This helps them orient themselves and adapt to their surroundings. Disruptions in routine can lead to confusion and distress. Adults should provide a structured environment to foster security and exploration.
Sensitive Period for Refinement of the Senses
From birth to five years, children use their senses to understand their environment. The refinement of senses occurs through continuous engagement. Adults should provide opportunities for exploration to aid in this development.
The Role of Sensitive Periods
Sensitive periods guide children in their work, leading to adaptation and strengthening of self. Through repetition and interaction with their environment, children fulfill their inner urges. The adult’s role is to prepare the environment and allow time for adaptation. The interplay of the absorbent mind and sensitive periods is crucial in personality development, completing the cycle of learning and growth.