Thursday, May 20, 2010

Sensitive Periods

The Montessori teaching method believes children pass through 'sensitive periods' during which they are at their optimal best for learning experiences. As Tim Seldin notes in his book 'How to Raise an Amazing Child', "During a sensitive period children become intrigued by aspects of their environment. Given the right stimulation at the right time, children are able to learn almost unconsciously".

There are several sensitive periods that occur during the early years, from birth through to age six. These are:
  • movement (from birth to one year)
  • language (from birth to six years)
  • small objects (from one to four years)
  • grace and courtesy (from two to six years)
  • senses (from two to six years)
  • writing (from three to four years)
  • order (from two to four years)
  • music (from two to six years)
  • toilet training (from 18 months to three years)
  • reading (from three to five years)
  • spatial relationships (from four to six years)
  • mathematics (from four to six years)
It is important to remember that while children can be completely absorbed and focused on a particular aspect of their environment while in a sensitive period, these are transitory states. Once the skill is mastered, the period will disappear. Therefore the importance of exposing children to the right experiences and activities is paramount in order for them to make the most of this learning opportunity. Obviously the skill can still be learnt, but it may take more hard work in the future.

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