Montessori Sensitive Periods: The Codes of Learning

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“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.” Dr. Maria Montessori refers to a temporary interest that typically appears in a child’s first six years (the first of the Montessori stages of development).
Understanding your child's sensitive periods can help you support their development

Table of Contents

By identifying the sensitive periods, you can tailor your child’s activities to them, helping them learn concepts more easily than in other periods.

30 Second Summary

Your child develops a particular interest in each of the following sensitivity periods. And if you identify their sensitivity period, you can provide them with helpful resources and use the appropriate Montessori methods to make the most out of that period.

Sensitive Periods From Birth

Movement

During their first five years, your child goes from limited movement control to developing gross and fine motor skills. Sensorial activities can help them with that and enhance their cognitive skills simultaneously.

Language

From birth until age six, your child will find the human voice (spoken language) fascinating. So, use this opportunity to teach them vocabulary, accents, inflections, and simple sentence patterns.

Observed From Age 1

Interest in Small Objects

Your child might become obsessed with small objects. As they grab them, their focus, motor skills, and pincer grip (holding things between the thumb and index) will improve. They’ll need close supervision for safety, though.

Observed From Age 2

The Senses

Dr. Montessori calls this period the “special epoch for sensation.” In it, you can employ hands-on activities to optimize your child’s learning.

Music

In this sensitivity period from age two through to age six, your child will be drawn to melody, rhythm, and pitch. And you can expose them to different styles and instruments to hone their skills.

Social and Emotional

In a period of emotional control, your child can learn about relationships, communication, and how to control their emotions. Practical Montessori methods include the peace table and circle time.

Order

In one of the most critical sensitive periods Montessori identifies, your child orders their mind and makes sense of their environment. This period runs from birth though to age five, but is especially sensitive around age two. During this period, your environment needs to be in order as your child will want consistency and routine. Support them by encouraging them to create order within their environment, such as putting their clothes or toys away.

Observed From Age 3

Writing and Reading

Dr. Montessori notes that children write before they read. So, you want to be ready with the appropriate lessons, activities, stories, and even puppets! With children absorbing spoken language, they’ll want to relate sounds to their letters’ shapes. So, give them textured letters to trace and ask them about their sounds – a. great Montessori activity for three-year-olds and four-year-olds, when this period is most relevant.

After writing, your child will exhibit interest in reading. So, it’s a good idea to build them a Montessori bookshelf to encourage them to read independently. The sensitive period for reading is most critical from ages three to five.

Observed From Age 4

Spatial

Between ages four and six, your child will develop spatial awareness, and start to understand familiar places. They will begin being able to find their way around and develop a better understanding of how objects relate to one another and their environment.

Mathematics

You might be surprised to learn that your little one is born with a mathematical brain! You can stimulate it during this with the Montessori golden bead material. Start with physical objects before moving to abstract concepts.

Conclusion

Thanks to the Montessori sensitive periods, you can help aid your child’s development. By understanding sensitive periods, you can provide activities and resources in a more effective way and see your child thrive and their skills develop!

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