The Montessori Sensitive Periods
Thoughts & Reflections
Written by Sonia Khanvilkar
The child beginning from birth onwards is striving for Independence. This child possesses a brain quite different than an adult. Dr. Montessori termed this brain an “Absorbent Mind.”
Literally to the word, the mind of a child from birth to age six is absorbing everything in his surroundings. They are taking in the language, the order, the adults around them, the behaviors, the actions and reactions. This is the conquest of the child to form himself into a functioning member of his society.
During this period of the child’s natural development there are periods that Dr Montessori called the Sensitive Periods. Basically, sensitive periods, as Montessori understands them, refer to a period of time when a child’s interests are focused on developing a certain skill.
Montessori talks about the metamorphosis of a butterfly. When a caterpillar is hatched it follows nature’s course in its development. Following the sunlight it gradually moves towards the end of the branch eating the leaves of the plant as much as it can without any other agenda. After a certain time frame it then starts weaving a cocoon around itself and forms a Chrysalis. Again after a measured period of time, which is always consistent, the caterpillar will then emerge from the chrysalis as a Butterfly!
Similarly, a child’s development is governed by nature. There is no free will or choice as they pass through these extremely sensitive periods of growth. These periods are different for each child, they emerge, last for a while and then pass.
Dr. Montessori observed that this absorbent mind, when offered the exercises and activities that satisfy these intense sensitive periods in the right time, will absorb and take in more information than any other time in their life. Some of these periods are for development of Language, Movement, Order.
The absorbent mind literally is like a sponge. It absorbs and takes in anything and everything around it. Just like a sponge can not discriminate the quality of water it absorbs, neither can this young developing mind.
Another beautiful analogy Dr Montessori talks about is that of a painter and a photographer. The young child’s mind is like a camera. It takes in the scene “as it is” without choosing the elements or discriminating, also unable to make any changes. Whereas, the adult mind is like that of a painter! He can choose the elements and features of the scene that he wishes to paint and will only take in those aspects and disregard what he does not feel are necessary.
Understanding these sensitive periods and the wonderful Absorbent Mind of the young child enables the adults around them to aid the child in the highest and the best possible way in their natural development.
Written by:Baan Dek