Sensitive periods, known also as development milestones or windows of opportunities, are those periods of a child’s life when the specific skills can be learned more easily and naturally than at any other time. During her studies and observations of children, Dr. Maria Montessori noticed and found that each child has sensitive periods. Those periods are both universal and unique for each child.
A sensitive period refers to a special sensitivity which a creature acquires in its infantile state, while it is still in a process of evolution. It is a transient disposition and limited to the acquisition of a particular trait. Once this trait, or characteristic, has been acquired, this special sensitivity disappears.M. Montessori, The Secret of Childhood
The first plane of development (from birth up to 6 years old) consists of six sensitive periods.
The Sensitive Period for language
The sensitive period for the language is the longest, begins from the seventh month of the pregnancy up to 6 years of age. This period has four subperiods – for spoken language (from the seventh month of the pregnancy up to 6 years of age), for writing (3,5 – 4,5 years), for reading (4,5 – 6 years), and for numbers (4 – 4,5 years). For this sensitive period, the adult has the biggest influence. As part of the prepared environment, the adult should speak slow and clear, read to the child, and allow the child to speak out his needs.
The Sensitive Period for order
The sensitive period for the order has two subperiod, from birth till 2,5 years is the strongest and from 2,5 up to 5 years of age. This period is characterized by the child’s desire for consistency and repetition. The child needs order. The order helps to orient and explore. During the period every difference from the routine can upset the child.
The Sensitive Period for sensorial development
The sensitive period for sensorial development starts from birth up to 6 years. With the help of his sensors, the child takes information from his environment. The senses (taste, smell, sounds, weight, and touch) help the child to develop himself and to make difference between the objects (big – small, bright – dark, different smells, noises, etc.).
The Sensitive Period for movement
The sensitive period for movement starts from birth up to the age of 4. This period can be separated into two subperiods – sensitive period for the acquisition of movement (from birth up to 2,3 years of age) and sensitive period for coordination of movement (2,5 – 4 years). First, the child learns simple movements and with the time they become more complicated, coordinated, and precise.
The Sensitive Period for tiny details
The sensitive period for tiny details (2 – 2,5 years) is connected with the sensitive period for movement and the sensitive period for sensorial development. The child is interested in the microworld, so he likes to touch and play with small objects and tiny details.
The Sensitive Period for social development
The sensitive period for social development has two subperiods – weaning (5 months – 1 year) and social manners (2 – 6 years of age). The introduction of solid should be done within its sensitive period, in order to prevent problems with food at a later stage. Thanks to his absorbent mind the child learns social manners from the adult, so the adult needs to be prepared and to give good examples.
Each child has his own unique periods for adapting and learning new abilities. The sensitive periods begin from birth up to 6 years of age. Each sensitive period comes once, so it is the adult’s responsibility to help the child to take the maximum of the sensitive period.
It comes for a moment but its benefits last for a lifetime.Maria Montessori
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