Within Maria Montessori’s framework due to her studies with children, she has observed the occurrence of sensitive periods. In other pedagogies it can get called developmental milestones or windows of opportunities. It is those periods in the child’s life when a certain ability manifests itself strongly. During these periods the child has an especially strong sensitivity towards a particular piece of knowledge or skill. The sensitivity lasts for a certain period and does not reoccur.
Simply it is a period of time in which the child concentrates mainly on one aspect of his environment and excludes everything else. This is when we see a child repeatedly does an activity with passion and conviction per se, and it seems like nothing can deter them to accomplishing that task until it is satisfied. It is a time of intense concentration and mental activity on developing a particular skill at that particular time, age / phase in growth. It is driven unconsciously by an inner force that the best way an adult can support this passion is to prepare the environment and encourage this special time of learning.
This can also be used as basic guidelines as to when a child is ready to learn and when to introduce certain items to children. This can also be determined by observing the child for when they are focused on a certain type of work and follow the child’s interest.
“The child has a creative aptitude, a potential energy that will enable it to build up a mental world from the world about it. He makes numerous acquisitions during the sensitive periods, which put him in relation to the other world in an exceptionally intense manner.” The Secret of Childhood by Maria Montessori.
The following are the Sensitive Periods for Children Aged from Birth to 6 years of Age:
Sensitive Period for Order (age 18 months to 2 years)
Sensitive Period for Language (birth to 6 years)
Sensitive Period for Movement (birth to 4 years)
Sensitive Period for Refinement of the Senses (birth to 5 years)
Sensitive Period for Weaning (5 to 6 months)
Sensitive Period for Numbers (4 to 5.5 years)
Sensitive Period for Manners and Courtesies (2 to 6 years)