Montessori educators have identified what is called the sensitive period in Montessori that refers to a particular stage in a child’s development. It was first identified by Dr. Maria Montessori, wherein she associates each sensitive period with an inner compulsion that is manifested by the child. According to Montessori, it is important to identify what these inner compulsions are in order for educators and parents to maximize the motivation and potential during these unique stages.
What is the Sensitive Period in Montessori?
The concept of the sensitive period in Montessori refers to a child’s ability to be self-motivated to learn from their environment. This idea is borrowed from natural biology wherein it believes that every child learns based on two things: physical and psychical.
The physical genetic design of a child determines their physical characteristics such as height, hair color, and so on. Meanwhile, the psychical aspect of a child’s development is where the idea of the sensitive period stems from. It refers to a child’s propensity to learn order, movement, language, reading, writing, and so on.
To fully understand how the sensitive period works, here is an overview of these sensitive periods in a child’s life:
1. Sensitive Period for Large Movement – Birth to 2.5 Years
From the moment a child is born until they reach two and a half years old is a sensitive period for movement. It is exhibited from the infant stage when your child transitions from lying on their back to rolling, to crawling, and then pulling themselves up. As your child reaches toddler stage, they continue to learn movement from walking to running, as well as learning balance and coordination.
2. Sensitive Period for Small Objects – 1-3 Years
This is one of the things that parents must be made aware of – your toddler will develop a curiosity towards small objects. If they encounter one, they will pick it up and study it. It is important to keep a close eye on your child too, as these items can be choking hazards. Give them the opportunity to interact with these objects safely as it can be good for development.
3. Sensitive Period for Toileting – 1 to 2.5 Years
This is the stage when children are aware of their bodily functions – one of which has to do with their bladder and bowel movements. Use this opportunity to teach your child how to use a toilet since they will also be most likely good at imitating adults at this stage.
4. Sensitive Period for Order – 1 to 4 Years
Your child will strive for order at this stage, so use this opportunity to teach them how to get organized. Toddlers also begin to crave a routine because it provides a safe base for their environment.
5. Sensitive Period for Grace and Courtesy – 2 to 6 Years
This is the best time to teach your child about being polite and other considerate behaviors. This is also when they begin to internalize these characteristics to form their personality; hence, it is a crucial stage in your child’s development.
6. Sensitive Period for Refinement of Senses – 2 to 6 Years
This sensitive period in Montessori is when your child develops a fascination towards sensory experiences. They will begin to explore sounds, textures, tastes, smell, and their own body parts.
7. Sensitive Period for Writing – 3 to 4 Years
At this stage in your child’s development, they begin to more accurately identify letters and numerals. They will also show interest in writing these characters down or using a pencil.
8. Sensitive Period for Reading – 3 to 5 Years
The sensitive period for writing typically overlaps with the sensitive period for reading. Your child will exhibit a spontaneous interest in the formation of words. This is the best time to read to them constantly.
9. Sensitive Period for Language – Birth to 6 Years
From the moment your child is born, they start to learn how to use language. Nurture this sensitive period by providing them with learning tools to expand their vocabulary and improve their comprehension abilities.
10. Sensitive Period for Spatial Relationships – 4 to 6 Years
In this stage, your child starts to form impressions about the space around them. For example, they are able to identify specific spots in your neighborhood, such as the park, which they might go to for a walk or to play. They start to form a familiarity with their environment.
11. Sensitive Period for Music – 2 to 6 Years
This is the stage in your child’s development that they begin to recognize sounds, melodies, and rhythms. Nurture this by playing music to them or allowing them to explore with musical instruments.
12. Sensitive Period for Mathematics – Birth to 6 Years
This sensitive period is when your child starts to quantify objects. They are able to start counting or pair objects or toys together.
Using the guidelines on the sensitive period in Montessori will enable parents and educators to develop a Prepared Environment that would facilitate learning in each stage of development. This is the best way to support your child’s affinity for learning and to aid in their cognitive and motor development.