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Sensitive Periods in Childhood Development

toddler play educational toy

Sometimes we find educational toys and learning games that are interesting and would like to introduce them to our little one but wonder if they are suitable or age appropriate.

I believe “Sensitive periods” provide a good indication of what’s appropriate for every level of development.

What are “Sensitive Periods”?

Through observation Maria Montessori discovered the stages of development that all children follow. She found that children go through very specific and well defined periods of interest in certain areas of their development.

Maria Montessori believed that the human brain is specially predisposed for learning during the sensitive period. She believed that parents, teachers and caregivers need to observe the child and respond accordingly to these sensitive periods – to provide an environment that meets the need of the child and further encourages the child through that specific stage of development.

Sensitive periods are transitory states

It is considered easier to acquire the skill or knowledge while the child is in the sensitive period. Outside the sensitive period learning still occurs however it is more arduous and often requires more time and effort.

During these sensitive periods, there is a great need for total focus, sensorial exploration, and a need for repeating activities in order to master skills. Sometimes these sensitive periods are characterized by overpowering (sometimes obsessive) and intense activity.

Interrupting a child while they are in the middle of an intense sensitive period can result in a powerful emotional response (i.e. tantrum). Break a routine that a child is attempting to understand and master (i.e. getting dressed, bath time, bedtime) and some children will literally fall apart as they are most likely in a sensitive period and their intense “work” is being interrupted.

“When parents and teachers recognise and take advantage of the sensitive periods through which children pass, they can become more effective in supporting their learning and development.”- How to Raise an Amazing Child the Montessori Way.

Here is a chart for some of the important Montessori timelines of Sensitive Periods:

stage of development montessori
Photo Source: Age of Montessori

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