In her work Dr. Montessori identified what she called Human Tendencies - lifelong tendencies that serve us in adaptation, etc. (Which I've written about previously) - and Sensitive Periods - short lived "windows of opportunity" for learning something specific with the greatest ease.
The brain of the child from before birth to about age 6 has periods of 'sensitivity' for certain things. From before birth, and lasting until 3, there is sensitivity for movement and language. From shortly after birth and peaking at about 2 there is sensitivity for order and the the sensitivity for the assimilation of images and refinement of the senses begins around 2.5 and lasts until about age 5. The period for order appears in the first year and continues through the second.
The sensitivity this article will focus on, lasting from about 2 to 3, is for small objects. This time is characterized by the child's fixation with small objects and tiny details.
Dr Montessori said, " When a particular sensitivity is aroused in the child, it is like a light that shines on some objects and not on others making of them his whole world." "It is a sensibility that which enables a child to come into contact with the external world in a particularly intense manner. At such a time everything is easy; all is life and enthusiasm, every effort marks an increase in power."
Knowing the Four Factors of Sensitive Periods helps us determine what we provide and how we interact. They are: 1. The duration of the period
2. The function that must be established
3. The importance of the influence of the environment on the child and 4. Positive assistance provided by the adults.
I remember walking with a toddler, marveling at the beauty of Autumn and wanting to share the splendor with a grand gesture encompassing all that was before us....but the child simply squatted down and picked up one small leaf and said...