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Sensitive Period in a Child’s Life and How to Make the Best Of It

Updated: Jun 16, 2021

It is important to observe various stages in the course of child development in order to ensure that it receives all the support that it requires to grow into a stable, fully functional adult with minimal emotional and intellectual issues. As per the Montessori theory of sensitive period, every child goes through five developmental milestones that help it acquire dexterity in order, movement, social skills, sensory skills and language. Have you ever been frustrated with how your child demands for the same bedtime story each night with the same level of fascination? The child exercises immense concentration and involvement in understanding the world around it between the ages of early infancy and six. This sort of commitment, even though temporary, deserves enough encouragement and recognition to ensure the child receives enough stimulation from its environment to inculcate universal human tendencies.

Children often throw tantrums over the most trivial reasons during this age. It is highly possible that it is a result of it experiencing disruption in its environment during the sensitive period. In a further attempt to chronicle the characteristics of sensitive periods during child development, we shall now proceed to explore every single developmental stage.


Order: the most important sensitive period in child development.

It is very crucial for a child to be able to experience and recognise order between the ages of two and three. This is the time the child learns how to organize and formulate responses to stimuli, develop reasoning skills, all of which underlie the natural human desire for consistency and convention. Establish a firm routine for your child and teach it order and cleanliness during this age to maximize the impact.


Movement:

Right from having little to no preservational instincts to taking its first steps to growing into adulthood, taking massive strides in every walk of its existence, the sensitive period of movement can be identified in two separate phases of a child’s developmental stage. The first observable stage occurs when the child attempts to crawl and pull up by the age of two. The second evident sensitive period for movement is when the child aims to attain coordination in all its activities in an attempt to imitate the environment it belongs to.


Sensory Skills: ‘Mommy, I’m going to work!’

Every time you see your little one mimicking your actions and trying to blend in with the adults, it is a result of its sensitive period of sensory skills. The child picks on tiny details and imbibes it in its own behaviour.


Language:

Poetess Sylvia Plath said it best as an eight year old: “I wish I could have the ability to write down the feelings I have now while I’m still little, because when I grow up I will know how to write, but I will have forgotten what being little feels like.”

During its sensitive period of language development, the child becomes particularly sensitive towards new experience and sensation. Spoken language is in particular focus upto the age of three. The written word is a gratifying experience to the psychic sensitivity of the child for the gap of 3.5 to 4.5 years. This is when it needs maximum encouragement to develop a flair for language. This is also the time that the child seeks expression without having been hardened by the callous realities of adult life. So in a way, encouraging the development of language is helping your child preserve the most innocent time of its life.


The sensitive period of social skills:

From ages two to five, the children learn to recognise a sense of community and belonging. That is why it is extremely important to encourage your child to form friendships and enjoy its playtime while exercising its intellectual capabilities fully. Help your child mingle with people its own age and inculcate positive values like the virtue of saying “please” and “thank you” in this period.


It is important to learn to recognise each sensitive period in your child’s developmental stages so that as parents and guardians, you can offer it the best upbringing humanly possible. A feeling of sensitivity and awe keeps diminishing within us as we slowly blend into the preformed ways of human society. We are polished, but we hardly ever experience joy in the little things. Ensure that your child preserves this sensitivity as much as possible.

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