In this essay I will define the term sensitive periods linking it with stage of development, I will also outline the importance of these periods , the consequences of not recognising it, and finally how we can support children in this crucial time.
"A sensitive periods refers to a special sensibility which a creature in its infantile state, while it is still in a process of evolution". ( Montessori, 1966, p38) Maria Montessori believed that during first few years of life its very easy for a child to learn without an effort that later on will be more difficult such as language. She observed that there is an inner passion and urge to absorbed everything from their environment. Sensitive periods are characterized by behaviours such as an activity being irresistible for a child once he/ she starts it. Once the sensitive period is over, the sensibility disappears because the brain has progressed to a time when specific information is absorbed. In each period children are especially sensitive to a specific characteristic in his/her environment. They have this "inner power horme" (Montessori, 1966) which enables them to choose and explore necessary objects and relationships from their environment, for their intellectual growth. All of those periods are very specific and unique for a child development. If he/she will not be able to satisfy his/her needs during those periods the opportunity " of a natural conquest is lost and its lost for good" (Montessori, 1966, p.39) These periods are transitory and it last only for as long as is necessary for a child to accomplish a particular stage of development.
There is three stages of development identified by Montessori are infancy (birth to six years), childhood ( six to twelve years), adolescence (twelve to eighteen). The first one is the most crucial in child life. The child now wants to master the environment, always busy doing something The process by which the child absorb knowledge of his/her environment is explained through Montessori book Absorbent Mind .This unconscious absorption will be stored in the child's "mneme" supreme type of memory which store impressions and from this it will be build conscious mind from the age of three. This unconscious stage is what (Montessori, 2007a) described as a "psychic life" or " spiritual embryo" which is present even before birth. Montessori said " He learns everything without knowing it, and he passes little by little from unconscious to conscious"(Montessori, 2007, p.24) Montessori names both of those stages of development an " absorbent mind"( Montessori, 2007a), as there will be no other in a mans life when he acquire with love the understanding of his environment and adaptation to life in such natural way with all the potential energies he is born with.
There are six mains sensitive periods identified by Montessori in the first plane of development. These are the sensitive periods for order, movement, sensory refinement, language, small objects and the social aspect of life. The first of these focuses around "order". This emerges soon after birth and continues on till child reaches the age of three years. This period is characterised by a desire for consistency, repetition and established routines. As Montessori points out, "Order is one of the needs of life which, when it is satisfied, produces a real happiness..."(Montessori: 1966; 52). Within the sensitive period for order lies two sub-categories internal order - how the child perceives the world and routines in the child's life. External order- its awareness his/her environment and his/her relationship with it. Children in that age have the need for routine and consistency to be able to orientate in their environment. They learn everything has its own place and they happily...