09 Jul Child’s Sensitive Period: Your Window Of Opportunity
For those of you who have followed Maria Montessori’s philosophy, the term ‘Sensitive Period’ must be very familiar, but for you who are unfamiliar with this term, it is NOT the time when children are so sensitive with their feelings – although over time, this is what will happen if their sensitive periods needs are not met.
A sensitive period is a window of opportunity for children to learn about specific skills, during their first six years of life. It’s the time when they learn to master certain skills, effortlessly.
Dr. Maria Montessori discovered that children have six sensitive periods:
The Sensitive Period For Order…
When our baby is still inside the womb, they enjoy a secure and comfortable life of order. The order of our heart beats, the order of the womb temperature, the order of food flow, etc.
Then they came into this chaotic world and they feel very insecure!
They suddenly hear sounds other than mommy’s voice and it makes them very anxious.
That’s why in their first 2 years of life, they need order very much. This need of order is a transition process that will help them adapt into their new world.
When this need is met, children will feel that this world is a safe place to live just like the womb.
The Sensitive Period For Movement…
Right after they can move their body independently, children usually go through the sensitive period for movement acquisition.
Their need for gross motor activity suddenly increases and it seems like they can’t be still for even one second. Sometimes parents worry and wonder if their child is hyperactive, but mostly they are only in their highest need to exercise their muscles and crave physical exploration.
Restricting a child from his needs for movement may lead to frustration and tantrums. It also reduces his chances for learn about his environment which is very good for his cognitive development.
The Sensitive Period For Small Objects…
You might notice that your crawling baby takes notice of small objects very seriously.
They can spot a tiny particle of dust on the floor, follow along the path of an ant or can’t look away from a zit on your nose.
Children go through this sensitive period for tiny details and during this time they can effortlessly build their focus and concentration skills.
What we can do to support this?
Just avoid questioning or disturbing your child who is deep in observation, so as not to break his concentration.
However, do take care if your child is still in oral phase and very interested in small objects because they may put it in their mouth.
The Sensitive Period For Language…
This sensitive period for language happens even before the child can say a word.
A child who is in the sensitive period for language will be very sensitive to sounds, very interested when spoken to and they will pay a lot of attention to the human voice.
They absorb so much vocabulary effortlessly without filtering it, so make sure to speak rich and appropriate language around them, even when speaking to someone else.
When children are in the peak of their sensitive period for language, they will display a word explosion – they suddenly recall all the words they absorbed from birth and are able to produce them.
The Sensitive Period For Sensorial Exploration…
One of the developmental needs of a child is to refine their senses.
Senses are children’s tools for learning, so in terms of preparing themselves for future learning, children will constantly give their senses stimulation.
When children are in their sensitive period for sensorial exploration, you will see that they will touch everything they see.
For children who are still in the oral phase, they will put everything into their mouth.
What can we do to support this need?
We can get onto our child’s level and observe the environment. Then, we can put away the unsafe items (small or sharp items) and only display things that are safe for them to touch and explore with. After that, we can practice the ‘more yes, less no’ attitude.
The Sensitive Period For Socialisation…
This sensitive period usually starts around 2,5 years, or when the child suddenly displays interest in other human being (especially children their own age).
Their focus is now shifting from themselves to other people.
For a child who is has started this period, they will enjoy observing what other children are doing.
What we can do to support this?
We can model good behavior on how to interact with others. Do not force children to play together or to share toys with other children if they are still on the level of social observation.
As they grow older, they will want to play with other children. So, just let them take their time to learn this social skill.
When Will Each Sensitive Period Take Place?
It’s very unique for each child, but the range is from birth to six. Some children may go through one sensitive period at a time, others may have overlaps between the sensitive periods.
Some may have a sensitive period and never go through it again, some may repeat the sensitive period they have been through before.
It is really up to their inner teacher, which skill they need to master first and when they have enough or need more time to master it.
What Happens If Children Miss Their Sensitive Period?
Some children may miss their sensitive period due to various reasons such as restriction or too much interference from parents, long term illness etc…
However, they will still be able to learn those skills later. They will however need more effort and repetition to master that skill, whereas children who learn the skill during their sensitive periods will master it effortlessly because their brain performance is at its peak.
Why Is It Important For Parents To Understand The Sensitive Periods Of A Child?
Children have a very tight deadline to master the essential skills they need. That’s why they are most likely to be frustrated when they feel that the adults and the environment around them do not support their needs to master those skills.
Usually we only see things from our perspective, that our children do not behave as we expect them to.
But when we can see things from a child’s point of view, we will notice that everything they do have a purpose to meet their growth and developmental needs, we will understand and eventually we will support them more and restrict less.
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