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Sensitive Periods from Birth to 6 - A Chart and Guide

Dr. Maria Montessori spent her life observing, studying, and writing about children. During her lifetime of work she discovered that young children move through a series of special times when they are particularly attracted to specific developmental needs and interests. She called these times, sensitive periods. During the sensitive period, children learn skills related to the sensitive period with ease. They don't tire of that work, but seek it, crave it and need it. When the sensitive period passes, this intense desire is gone, never to return. 

Get started with Montessori with this visual guide to sensitive periods. Sensitive periods are important in choosing activities and parenting choices.

That doesn't mean the skill is lost forever once the sensitive period is over. Instead, it just means that it will take a more conscious effort to learn. As Dr. Montessori explains, 

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"A child learns to adjust himself and make acquisitions in his sensitive periods. These are like a beam that lights interiorly a battery that furnishes energy. It is this sensibility 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. Only when the goal has been obtained does fatigue and the weight of indifference come on....

On the other hand, when the sensitive period has disappeared, intellectual victories are reported through reasoning processes, voluntary efforts, and the toil of research. And from the torpor of indifference is born the weariness of labor." Maria Montessori, The Secret of Childhood

Understanding your child's sensitive periods is one of the keys to understanding what they need in their environment and why they are behaving in a certain way. Maria was clear that sensitive periods deeply influence a child's behavior and reactions. 

Get started with Montessori with this visual guide to sensitive periods. Sensitive periods are important in choosing activities and parenting choices.

What Dr. Montessori was less clear about was when exactly these sensitive periods occur. I wish I could point you to one page in one book that explained them all. But, that just doesn't exist. There is some debate in the Montessori community about when these sensitive periods occur and what exactly the entire list of sensitive periods are. I decided to put together a little cheat sheet chart to help everyone (myself included) remember the basic sensitive periods. 

"The tantrums of the sensitive periods are external manifestations of an unsatisfied need, expression of alarm over danger, or of something being out of place. They disappear just as soon as there is a possibility of satisfying the need or eliminating the danger. One can at times observe in a child a sudden calm following a state of agitation that seemed almost pathological." Maria Montessori, The Secret of Childhood

To create this, I included the most commonly cited sensitive periods for this age group. This list is not meant to be completely exhaustive but is meant to include the most popular and important. The age ranges are taken from the averages of many sources. You'll notice that many of the sensitive periods overlap and span long periods of time. 

Get started with Montessori with this visual guide to sensitive periods. Sensitive periods are important in choosing activities and parenting choices.

In addition to the above chart, I created a little PDF guide to sensitive periods with some ideas to support the sensitive period and some more of Dr. Montessori's own words for inspiration. Sign up below and the guide will be emailed directly to you. 

I hope this was helpful in seeing your child more deeply. By understanding these sensitive periods we can see our children more deeply and respond accordingly. It is these sensitive periods that will drive our children's behavior, their interests, and as a result how we prepare our environment and our own attitudes toward parenting. 

What sensitive periods is your child currently in? 


Kim said…
This is absolutely fantastic. Can't wait to get the guide in my email. This is EXACTLY what I have been trying to conceptualise.
Carolina :o) said…
I agree this is awesome!

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