Sensitive Periods and the role of the Montessori method

Sensitive Periods and the role of the Montessori method for children from 0 to 6 years.

Sensitive Periods and the role of the Montessori method for children from 0 to 6 years.

The Sensitive Periods, a phenomenon occurring in young children worldwide have been studied by Montessori educators for over 100 years.

Each sensitive period, first identified by Dr. Maria Montessori, is a particular kind of inner compulsion. These compulsions encourage young children in the community to explore objects and relationships. These are used for children to expose their full potential.

Nevertheless, the Montessori experience suggests that if we provide children with three conditions, they can achieve more development in their unique capabilities.

The three conditions are:

  • Firstly, we, adults, need to understand children’s development and their sensitive periods.
  • Secondly, a qualified and fully equipped classroom that can satisfy children during their sensitive periods.
  • Thirdly is a well-trained teacher’s educational observation.

What are the sensitive periods due to Montessori Method?

Periods of psychological maturity of the infant are sensitive periods. This period is a restricted period of time. The children have very strong powers during this period. The child, like language and action, is able to do amazing things and make really significant acquisitions. All these forces weaken after some time.

“Children pass through definite periods in which they reveal psychic aptitudes and possibilities which afterward disappear. That is why, at particular epochs of their life, they reveal an intense and extraordinary interest in certain objects and exercises, which one might look for in vain at later age”  – Standing, Maria Montessori Her Life and Work, p.120

Each sensitive period due to the Montessori method is listed as below:

  • A period of special psychological attitudes and sensitivity.
  • An overpowering force, interest, or impetus that leads the child to unique environmental attributes and elements.
  • A period of time during which the infant focuses his or her attention on particular environmental aspects, to the exclusion of anything else.
  • A determination and a desire.
  • A guide to imaginative processes.
  • An intensive and extended time does not contribute to tiredness or exhaustion, but to constant energy and interest instead.
  • A transitory state; the sensitive phase disappears until understood.
  • Never relived or regained.

Montessori found in Casa de Bambini that the sensitive intervals were not sequential. They’re not pursuing one another. Some run in tandem, and some overlap, it was clear to her that the child’s sensitive periods were not only an assist to the growth of his physical life but also an important part of his learning process. Maria Montessori thus defined six main sensitive periods in the formulation of her system of education:

1. Sensitive periods 1: Order

Children usually start to be sensitive to order in the first year and might still happen through the second year of life. The child tries during this period to figure out and categorize all his experiences. If there is a sort of balance in their lives, it makes it simpler for them. They liked to be cared for in a familiar setting by a primary caregiver in the same way. In order to orientate himself and create a conceptual image of the world, the child needs clarity and comfort. This need is particularly noticeable in children from around the age of 18 months.

Change can be really disturbing for a child during this vulnerable time, and even a slight change can feel like the end of the world to them. In the life of an infant, having structure causes the child to become disoriented. This is why the atmosphere in which the young child is educated is so important. The order makes it easier for the child to orient himself and coordinate his mind.

2. Sensitive periods 2: Language

The sensitive language period starts at birth and goes all the way to the first stage of life (0-6 years). A child hears the voice of his mother and watches her mouth and her tongue. The child would have mastered a broad vocabulary, essential sentence forms, and the inflections and accents of language by the age of six, with virtually no overt instruction. Throughout his youth, he will begin to learn more complicated sentence structures and expand his vocabulary. If a child has not been introduced consistently to language (reading, listening, singing, writing, etc.), he can be irrevocably affected during this period.

Throughout this time, Maria Montessori felt that it was especially necessary for adults to converse with children, constantly enriching their vocabulary and giving them every chance to learn new words.

3. Sensitive periods 3: Walking

Young children have a need to perfect the walking ability beginning from around 12 to 15 months. And they are willing to walk and walk as told in the book “The Secret of Childhood” by Maria Montessori. How long a child can walk for, until they are able to do so at their own speed, is underrated. But the parent must be mindful that they have no sense of time and love to explore…The kid transitions from being powerless into an independent being at this process and, as we all know, it is now truly the start.

4. Sensitive periods 4: Social Aspects of Life

The child becomes conscious, at the age of around two and a half years to three years, that he must be part of a group. He starts to show an interest in other children who are the same age. And eventually begins to play with his friends in a cooperative way. There is a feeling of cohesion that Maria Montessori felt naturally came and was not driven by internal drives. She found that children tend to model themselves on adult social behavior at this point. So that they eventually acquire their group’s social norms…

5. Sensitivity to Small Objects: Read more at I am Montessori

6. Sensitivity for Learning Through the Senses at I am Montessori

They are the main sensitive periods that a child is believed to progress through by the Montessori method. And there might be still smaller periods belong to it. Let find out together through those reference articles.

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