Sensitive periods in a child's development

A sensitive period is a time when a child's interests are focused on developing a particular skill or area of knowledge. In other words, it's a phase in a child's development during which he or she is most apt and receptive to acquiring a certain skill. The sensitive phases are interwoven and manifest themselves in a way that is specific to each child. That's why it's important to identify and recognize them, so that they can be stimulated at the right moment.

What are sensitive periods?

Periods of psychological development in children are called sensitive periods. In other words, a time when a child develops an irresistible attraction or interest in something. This may be a skill, an action or a particular aspect of the environment. It gives direction to the unconscious capacities a child can achieve. During this period, the child can do great things and acquire important knowledge, such as language and movement.

According to the Montessori methodThe most sensitive periods are between birth and the age of six. During the first six years of life, children pass through five essential stages of development:

  • Order
  • Language
  • Direction
  • Movement
  • Social skills

Each sensitive period lasts as long as it takes the child to reach a particular stage of development. As soon as the child reaches a particular stage of development, the sensitive period ends.

How do you recognize a sensitive period?

Recognizing sensitive periods in your child's development may be easier than you think. A sensitive period can be characterized by mimicry, intense concentration and compulsive or obsessive behavior. Breaking the routine of a child trying to understand and master something, such as dressing, bathing or going to bed, can lead to intense emotional distress such as tantrums, crying and behavioral changes. The terrible twos, for example, is often an overreaction to small disturbances in order that adults may miss. In fact, the child is probably in a sensitive period and his or her learning is interrupted.

5 sensitive period in children

Understanding the different sensitive periods gives opportunity and responsibility. During these times, children are able to acquire knowledge with little effort. There are two aspects to recognizing sensitive periods: one is to understand the different stages of a child's development, so that parents can support them. The other is to observe the child and allow him to progress at his own pace. Observation helps us to understand the child's needs.

To support a child during sensitive periods, provide a favorable learning environment that stimulates his or her development. This means making sure you have the time and materials you need, as well as respecting your child's interests and desires.

The 5 sensitive periods in children

In children, there are several sensitive periods during which learning is particularly easy.

  • Order

The sensitive period for order refers to the period from birth to around the age of 5. This period of development teaches them to develop their thinking skills, organize information and understand their environment. Sensitivity to order can be characterized by a desire for consistency, repetition and the establishment of routines.

During this stage, children may be more interested in tidying up than in playing with their toys. To support this sensitive period of order, it's important to establish ground rules, a solid routine, and create an organized environment where everything has its place.

  • The language

From birth to age 6, children are in the sensitive period for language. The language stage refers to the development of a child's sensitivity to spoken language, written language and reading. The sensitive period for spoken language extends from 7 months and lasts until the age of 3. This is when the child first creates sounds by imitating the movements of his or her mouth, and progresses over time as he or she learns to form words and simple sentences.

The sensitive period for learning to write is between the ages of 3 and a half and 4 and a half. It begins when the child learns the alphabet, which forms the basis of reading and writing skills. The sensitive reading period then begins at 4? years and lasts until 5? years. To encourage language development at home, it's important to immerse your child in an environment rich in linguistic discovery. This means talking to your child in clear language, singing and reading with him/her, and letting him/her express his/her needs rather than anticipating them.

  • The senses

Children begin to understand and refine their senses from birth to age 5. This period can be characterized by the child's fascination with sensory experiences such as touch, taste, sight and smell. The first sensory phase begins at the age of one and is characterized by the child's curiosity for small things and details. It's a period when the child wants to touch or taste everything in sight.

montessori sensitive period

The second phase of sensory exploration develops between the ages of 2? and 6. This phase is characterized by the child's interest and desire to take part in learning experiences that integrate the senses. These experiences provide children with a system for classifying objects in their environment.

To foster sensory awareness, it's important to give your child plenty of opportunities to explore and observe his environment using his senses. At home, offer your child activities involving different materials, textures, colors or temperatures. You can give your child the opportunity to group objects with similar characteristics, or to touch objects with different textures.

  • Movement

The sensitive period for movement can be divided into two phases. From birth to 2 1/2 years, children are sensitive to the development of fine and gross motor skills. The child begins to crawl, sit up and walk on his own. Over time, they also begin to develop muscles and hand-eye coordination. Between the ages of 2 1/2 and 4 1/2, children begin to hold objects with both hands, develop pincer grasp, and control and coordinate their movements.

To encourage the development of motor skills, it's important to offer your child regular outings to the park or outdoors. At home, you can encourage sensitive periods for movement by giving your child opportunities to practice tasks, such as drawing or writing, washing his hands, threading yarn or jumping.

  • Social behavior

Last but not least is the social behavior stage, which begins at age 2 and ends around age 6. This is the period when children begin to learn that they are part of a group. During this period, children learn to direct their actions, attention and behavior towards a group of people. It is at this stage of development that children learn to form friendships and participate in cooperative games. The sensitive period of social skills is an appropriate stage for introducing the importance of good manners and the basic principles of human relations.

To support this phase, it's important to give him the opportunity to get to know children his own age at nursery, school or elsewhere. This is an excellent way to ensure that he develops healthy social skills.

Supporting your child during sensitive periods

As a parent, it's important to be aware of your child's sensitive periods, so you can better support his or her development. The other aspect is simply to observe your child and allow him to progress at his own pace. To support your child during these special periods of learning, it's important to provide a learning environment that's conducive to his or her stage of development. It's through observation that your child's needs are revealed.

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