If you’ve never heard of Maria Montessori’s Sensitive Periods of Development, I highly suggest every parent, even non-Montessorian parents should take a minute to read about them. I go through these times where I won’t think about this concept for a while and I will find myself getting frustrated with something one of the kids is doing. Then, when I am reminded (like I was the other day at my meeting with the teachers at school), I have a lightbulb moment.
I love Lightbulb Moments.
For the last two weeks or so, when Judah goes to pick lessons on our shelves, I have been noticing him steering far away from the overly-educational lessons and going for the more playful things on the shelves. Which of course isn’t always a bad thing, but I was getting (silently) frustrated that he wasn’t interested in my educational stuff. I was starting to question if I was missing something – searching high and low for other ideas. I really thought I was picking things that I knew would interest MY child, but alas, I was failing.
Until…I was reminded of our Sensitive Periods. And then it dawned on me. For about the past 4-6 weeks, we have seen an imaginative explosion in Judah. Out of nowhere, he is playing make believe and pretending with everything he can get his hands on. Without warning, he was having full-length conversations with his toys, coming to me with some wildly imaginative stories and creating elaborate play scenes with toys and figurines. He was in a sensitive period.
What is a sensitive period? This is an excerpt taken from Montessori.org
“Each sensitive period is a specific kind of compulsion, motivating young children to seek objects and relationships in their environment with which to fulfill their special and unique inner potentials..
Each sensitive period is:
A period of special sensibility and psychological attitudes.
An overpowering force, interest, or impetus directing children to particular qualities and elements in the environment.
A period of time during which children center their attention on specific aspects of the environment, to the exclusion of all else.
A passion and a commitment.
Derived from the unconscious and leads children to conscious and creative activities.
Intense and prolonged activity which does not lead to fatigue or boredom, but instead leads to persistent energy and interest.
A transitory state once realized, the sensitive period disappears. Sensitive periods are never regained, once they have passed.”
Here are some of the sensitive periods you might see in your (young) child and the ages you might see them:
Movement: Random movements become coordinated and controlled: grasping, touching, turning, balancing, crawling, walking. (birth — 1yr)
Language: Use of words to communicate: a progression from babble to words to phrases to sentences, with a continuously expanding vocabulary and comprehension. (birth — 6yrs)
Small Objects: A fixation on small objects and tiny details. (1-4yrs)
Order: Characterized by a desire for consistency and repetition and a passionate love for established routines. Children can become deeply disturbed by disorder. The environment must be carefully ordered with a place for everything and with carefully established ground rules. (2-4yrs)
Music: Spontaneous interest in and the development of pitch, rhythm, and melody. (2-6yrs)
Grace & Courtesy: Imitation of polite and considerate behavior leading to an internalization of these qualities into the personality. (2-6)
Refinement of the Senses: Fascination with sensorial experiences (taste, sound, touch, weight, smell) resulting with children learning to observe and with making increasingly refined sensorial discriminations. (2-6yrs)
Writing Fascination: with the attempt to reproduce letters and numbers with pencil or pen and paper. Montessori discovered that writing precedes reading. (3-4yrs)
Reading Spontaneous: interest in the symbolic representations of the sounds of each letter and in the formation of words. (3-5yrs)
Spatial Relationships: Forming cognitive impressions about relationships in space, including the layout of familiar places. Children become more able to find their way around their neighborhoods, and they are increasingly able to work complex puzzles. (4-6yrs)
Mathematics Formation: of the concepts of quantity and operations from the uses of concrete material aids. (4-6)
These are just SOME of the periods you can see in your child.
And with that said, here are some lessons we have done this week that Judah has mostly turned into play – which is always accepted with open arms in the Montessori Environment (as long as it doesn’t become abusive to the materials).
Here we are using our stones to write his name on his sandpaper letters. He barely lasted long enough to finish his name, and then he was on to the next thing: finding a treasure box to put all his stones in.
I found a box that was acceptable for his treasure box needs. He said it didn’t look exactly like Jake’s (from Jake and the Neverland Pirates), but it would suffice. He decided he would get out his magnet lesson to add to the treasure, and we played with all those as well. Then, since we are learning about the Ocean, we talked about Treasure Chests in the Ocean and played with that concept for a while.
We also built rocket ships with our magnets, and tested the different strengths.
I was able to get a little teaching in there when he discovered the different poles on the magnets. This magnet lesson has come off the shelf almost every day these last four weeks. I think we will need to invest in more magnets.
We measured Ocean (blue) water with a baster. I took two glass jars and placed rubber bands on them at different levels. Then he had to use the baster to fill up the jars to the rubber band, but couldn’t go past it.
My child doesn’t deny a practical life lesson very often.
This little guy is definitely going through a movement period – he can’t get enough walking. So much so that every picture I take of him is a blurry trail of continuous-moving Dex. 12 months is such a fun age!!
Is your child going through a sensitive period right now? Or maybe now that you think back, you can see some of the developmental periods they have gone through in the past. They are all exceptional to watch, and a great opportunity to embrace what interests your child at that specific time.
Nobody wants to be forced to do something that doesn’t interest them, yes?
Don’t force me to play football! That sensitive period will never be found in this artsy-fartsy, creative-prision of a brain.