The Sensitive Periods in child development-III

Here we are , gonna learn the next three sensitivity periods in child development.

Missed the earlier posts ? Here are the links , click them and you will be re-routed.

This is the third part and the last 3 three Periods of sensitivity are given here in detail :

4) The Period of Sensitivity for Walking

                   We undoubtedly agree that movement does not support mental development as we often think about people sitting still during intellectual activity. But, a brain does not develop without the solidarity of movement. So, a child’s sensitivity for walking is a significant one.

         A happy child of 2 years of age loves to walk exploring keenly to discover new places and move about. We as adults move only to reach a goal but a child moves frequently to practice walking, climbing or running to perfection. We would have definitely seen young children climbing up and down the stairs carefully and constantly even if we impede their path. Happy Feet 

Happy Feet 

                 When we take children for walks, we misjudge their aptitude to walk thinking they cannot walk long distances. It is illogical, as we should allow them to walk at their own pace. The child not only walks, he also explores his environment. He walks a short distance, stops if he finds something interesting, explores it keenly, and then proceeds after the break. This way he can walk over a mile. The child’s impulse to move about from one place to another relentlessly ascertaining new things, resemble the first tribesman who strolled on the earth.

                   We as educators need to make a principle in our schools to provide scholarly benefits to the little active explorer. This will definitely make the child’s life increasingly rich.

5) The Period of Sensitivity for Small Objects

                   At the age of one year, the child begins crawling and starts to walk on his knees. Then he holds some support and tries to walk upright on his two legs. He practices it proficiently and persistently. Once the child starts walking, he gets a larger area to explore. So he starts ardent investigation on the small objects that he passes on his way. 

Likewise, when he goes for a walk, he stops and surveys each object, and gets attracted to small objects in particular. He examines them carefully, focused to every detail where to tries to build up an understanding with the environment around him. We should appreciate this great effort, which also helps in his academic intensification.

Exploring small objects

6) The Period of Sensitivity to Social Aspects of Life

                   When children become three years of age, they realize that they are part of a group. Social Integration occurs when the child thinks about the success of his group then the individual person’s success. Social behaviour linked with child’s character, should be cultivated in the school itself. 

For example, a Montessori School should be well equipped with one complete set of Apparatus, which is effectively liked by all children. One specimen of each object is enough, which will help the child to develop important social qualities. The child learns to respect others work and wait for his turn. Following this, lot of virtues like patience, discipline, obedience, adaptation to the society, satisfactory behaviour etc … is inculcated in the child’s personality. It is not the teacher who teaches them these virtues. It is the freedom to work in the environment we have prepared carefully that fosters them.

                   After six years of age, children are keen in knowing the laws and customs adopted by Men and also about social communal leaders. Abandoned children get into rebellious gang against adult-made rules and regulations.

                   So, when we talk about conclusion, it is evident, that we need to provide a good environment and right materials for the future adults to work with, for the betterment of humanity.

The Sensitive Periods in child development-II

Further to my earlier post yesterday, ( Click here to view the post ) on the 1st Sensitive Period, lets hop along to learn about the other sensitive periods :

2) The Period of Refinement of senses

                   A crawling child is a natural explorer, who picks up objects and puts them in the mouth. He not only tastes that object but uses all other senses like seeing, touching, smelling etc… Stimulating a particular sense organ causes this co-ordination between senses. So, this Inter Sensory synchronization can be can be improved to perfection by sincere teaching and assistance. The senses act as a point of contact with the environment and the mind becomes extremely skilful from what it grabs from the senses. This sensitivity can be seen unto the age of eight years. 

The Five Senses

                   A number of times, I have observed my daughter reacting only to selected stimuli. She sees, hears, and smells, touches or tastes only which she wants to. She only responds to when her name is called and does not pay attention when I call other people in my house. Similarly, when I watch music channel, she only turns back, to see her favourite song on the TV. This choosy reaction is very essential for preventing our mind from being clogged with stimuli.

                   So, Dr Montessori has felt the importance of giving the ultimate training for the refinement of senses for the child. She has devised good teaching apparatus for this purpose.

3) The Period of Sensitivity to Language
                 Language is an appliance of combined thought. Though the child was dumb at birth, his capability to learn a language in a short span of time is really amazing. Activity through language is very necessary for a child’s intellectual development. The child possesses a minuscule teacher within who introduces him to the sounds first and then syllables, words follow and finally grammar. By the age of five years, he is able to use the basic language. He further masters the language during his primary school period.              

             In this sensitive period, the baby has great rational authority to which best attention has to be given. If the supremely sensitive child is prevented from learning the basic language, he may suffer defective intellectual growth, which will become permanent. The best example for this is the “Wild Boy of Aveyron” ( Jean Itard,1801 ), who was isolated from the society during childhood. After so many efforts, he became social but could never speak. 

Victor, the Wild Boy of Averyon

The other three sentivites will be published in the next article that follows. 

The Sensitive Periods in child development-I

                       It is widely believed that an infant has a clear mental life since its pre-natal life.  This tendency of sensibility helps the child for the development of various aspects such psycho - motor skills, learning a language, culture, arithmetic etc… Therefore, Sensitive Period corresponds to special sensibilities found in the child during the process of development. They are momentary and last only over a limited period of time until a particular characteristic has evolved. Once the determined ability is obtained through reiteration of actions, the corresponding sensibility vanishes.

                   These sensibilities can be seen in animals, birds and insects too. This can be best explained in insects when the conversion of a Caterpillar to a butterfly takes place, reported as sensibility towards light. Also, in the grubs of a bee, a female bee becomes a queen bee only when it has intense hunger.

                   Similarly, a human child possesses an exalting vigour during physical growth. When the development of the child is hampered due to any obstacles or if the environment hinders the child’s secret working, the child becomes mentally starved or bored or frustrated. Thus the chance of a natural conquest is lost forever. This violent disturbance in the child leads him to a state of “naughtiness” or “stubbornness”. The tantrums of the supremely sensitive periods leave a permanent scar on the child’s psyche if the child is arrested from reaching his goal.

                   Dr Maria Montessori has observed six sensitive periods in child development which are classified as follows:

1)   The Period of Sensitivity to Order 
2) The Period of Refinement of senses
3) The Period of Sensitivity to Language
4) The Period of Sensitivity for Walking
5) The Period of Sensitivity for Small Objects
6) The Period of Sensitivity to Social Aspects of Life

Let us now have a look on the 1st sensitivity as follows : 

1)   The Period of Sensitivity to Order :

          An essential character of very small babies (say 1-2 years) is their LOVE OF ORDER – right things in their right places. Adults can only talk that order is a basic need, but babies cannot live in disorder. Disorder upsets him and it can be a very violent disturbance in the very depths of his soul. The baby may express agitated, desperate cries to show his temper. Here, I would like to share an example taken from my real life.
                   My eight-month-old daughter was playing in the cradle one day, when she started crying all of a sudden. I was shocked and checked for all possibilities to find out her despair. She stared at the wall in front of her and cried inconsolably. After a lot of hardship, I found out the apparent reason for her shrieks. I used to show her some picture cards daily, put them into a yellow bag and put it on a hook on the wall, next to the cradle. On the day in question, I had placed the bag elsewhere ! The reason for my baby’s confrontation was that the bag was missing and that bothered her brutally. So, order is only an external pleasure for an adult but a child makes himself out of the elements of his environment. Order provides him knowledge of the arrangement of objects in the child’s environment and he recollects the place where each object belongs to.            

         Thus, Nature bestows the child with a sensibility of order and when the child gets oriented through this perfectly, he conquers his goal. Instead, disorder obstructs a child’s development thus causing lot of aberration.

The Inner Order

                   Every child has two types of sensibilities to order. The outer, as explained above, concerns relations between parts or objects of his environment while the inner order provide him a sense of the parts of his body, their position and movement.

                   The inner orientation has been subjected to much research and psychologists have found out a special muscular memory which enables the child to determine the positions of the various parts of the body.

                   I would once again like to give an example from my real life that my 2 years old daughter cannot go to bed without brushing at night. She feels very guilty the next morning, if she accidentally goes off to sleep without brushing. This denotes that she has an inner order that brushing fights germs and when she does not do it, she feels psychologically depressed.

                   So, a child is the one who drew all the foundations, for us to lead a rich life out of nothingness. He needs to find everything in its place and could go to great heights to put them back if they are out of place. We may conclude that In a Montessori School, Order is an important feature.

                      We will be studying in detail, about the other sensitive periods in the posts that follow ! 

Click here to view the next post ( Sensitive Periods - II )

Famous Quotes of Dr Maria Montessori

Never help a child with a task at which he feels he can succeed.

The greatest sign of success for a teacher is to be able to 
say, "The children are now working as if i do not exist!".

The child is both a hope and a promise for mankind.

It is the child who makes the man, and no man exists 

who was not made by the child he once was.

Natural Laws of Development - A Note

                       Nature has its own arrangement for all living things. All we need to do is to follow nature’s trail. If nature is altered or tampered with, we have to face serious consequences. Great philosophers have researched that other educational systems do not abide by the laws of natural growth, which result in indolent, exhausted and fed up children. We should neither be stern nor be compassionate in handling children. We just need to practice a new approach towards child education, which paves way for “Natural growth or development “. This can be seen in plants, animals as well as humans.

                   Plants have their own strategy for development. For example, we shall consider a single germ cell growing into a huge tree without depending upon the mother tree. We can also think about a beautiful flower blooming from a small bud, which later becomes a fruit and ripens fit to be consumed. We are now persuaded by this example that an organism develops under our eyes at a programmed period of time.

                   Talking about animals, they too have natural plans for their evolution and development. Let us now regard the development of a chick from the hen’s egg. The mother hen lays eggs in a sheltered and secure place. It makes sure to provide safety and warmth for the eggs by sitting on them and watching it. The embryo inside is only the miracle worker, which develops slowly under the mother’s warmth. The love and care of the mother hen for three full weeks enables the eggs to hatch. Out comes the tiny chick with already fully developed legs walk and bright little eyes to look around.

                   Yet the motherly duty of the hen is not entirely over. She protects her chicks under her wing and teaches them other survival activities. Here, we can see that the mother’s job was only to lay the eggs and help the eggs to hatch. But she cannot claim that she has made the legs or eyes or the softness of the skin which were formed inside the eggshell itself. It is now obvious that it is an apparent task of Self-Activity of the organism, or the chick in this case.

                   Now, it is beyond doubt that growth and development through self-activity is an exact miracle of nature.

                   Let us see about the development of the baby now. A child has great rational and productive energy as he was incapable to move or speak during birth and later on he absorbed the characteristics of his surroundings and shaped himself into an ideal human.

                   A child is undoubtedly blessed or showered with abundant powers, which guide him, and the extraordinary psychic force inside him helps in the development of his intelligence. We need to consent with Dr Maria Montessori, where she quoted “ A Child is the Father of Man “. The power, intelligence and the knowledge, which an adult possesses, is not made by his Parents but by the Infant who transforms him into a Man. Here the Infant’s task was nothing – but to grow.

          A mother cannot say that she had designed or created the parts of her child’s body. In fact, the child has evolved himself. The mother’s part lies only in giving birth and the child utilize his own potentialities to grow himself to reach the capability of an adult.

                   Considering all the above facts, we can summarize that every organism follows nature’s allotted part of self-development and growth, as to what should be done, when and how. Also, we agree that during this period, it is highly impossible to interfere in nature’s force. For example, when a child is in the course of walking stage of development, he overcomes all obstacles that prevent him from walking. Just imagine a child who is busily trying to climb the stairs with great endeavour  If we stop him by carrying him back to his nursery, he makes grave constant efforts to climb again. He does not feel exhausted or bored. If we put a chair to block the stairs, he finds a way by either climbing upon the chair or crawling underneath it to reach his goal.

                   So, we should never obstruct a child’s pursuit for Self-activity. He should be given enough sovereignty to develop WITHIN THE LAWS OF NATURAL DEVELOPMENT.

Five aspects of Freedom

                             We just learnt in the earlier posts that the teacher or the parent has to aid the development of the child. Likewise, the school environment or the household premises has to be prepared carefully with apparatus to interest child development.

                            Apart from this, does the child really have freedom to explore the environment provided ?  In most cases, i would say no ! There have been many restrictions laid and many no-no and dont's are forced on the child. 

                            A child should be given adequate freedom to disclose his growth patterns and personality. There are Five aspects of Liberty that has to be given to the child without limitation :

1)    Freedom of Movement to be given as the child explores his surroundings through his movement. Impulsive movement also causes interest on a specific activity through which the child wins experience and development.

2)    Freedom of Choice is required for a child to select the activity of interest, which also suits his inner developmental needs. This leads to the formation of an important potential ‘Self Motivation ’.

3)    Freedom of Repetition is also required as the child selects an activity of interest and works continually on this until his inner urge is contented. This helps the child achieve excellence. Repetition and perfection together constitute an important character ‘Concentration’.

4)    Freedom of Expression is important for child development as the child needs to express his opinion and sensation freely to interact and merge his ability of spoken language.

5)  Freedom of Socialising should be given to children for development of public relations, problem solving skills, development of helping tendencies, co-operation and respecting others’ work.

10 ways of effective communication

Communicating the Montessori way 

                   Montessori Method of education needs to be communicated to the child through approach, body-language and proceedings according to the child’s reaction. This responsive communication helps the children to develop faith in their teachers and so they feel free to learn and explore thus developing themselves. Let us brief here below the ten effective ways of communication :

1)   Prepare the environment carefully, which conveys to the child that he is free to move about and explore or learn at his own will. It also shows that this environment contains various materials that interest him, which in turn challenge and inspire him for self development. We should use safe apparatus and child sized furniture which is comfortable for the child. For sensory apparatus, we need to offer real life objects instead of plastic ones, as the fake ones do not offer the scope of sensory stimulation when compared to the real objects.

2)   Use Pro-active guidance strategies, like praising the child when they behave duly. A child should be communicated that adults notice their alternate behaviour patterns. When he behaves well, we need to be pleased by just smiling or highlight quietly by saying “David, I hear how quietly you closed the door”. Contrary to this, if a child misbehaves, we must never retort immediately or try to punish him. Instead we need to accept his feelings and try to escort him towards appropriate behaviour. We should not support competition but communicate to the child that co-operative behaviour is highly saluted.

3)   Intervene gently, quietly and only when necessary. When a child is at work, a teacher should interfere as little as possible. She needs to watch the situation and cautiously plan how to intervene. After solving the dilemma she needs to leave the child instantaneously. During social contacts, she needs to wait for the children to patch up their own disparity by themselves. She has to get involved at once, only when the child is in danger.

4) Give a directed choice, which enables the child to decide without any half-hearted sacrifices. Instead of asking a child “What do you want ?” or asking him “Do you want to work on the puzzle ?”, we can give him a direct choice like “Suresh, do you wish to work on this puzzle or go out and do some gardening ?”. This way of communication reveals our confidence in the child’s decisive powers.

5)   Use touch often. Research conducted worldwide confirmed that touch is an effective form of communication. It gives caring and comfort for the child. It is helpful in the development of brain as well because touch enhances language activity. Anyway, all infants do not enjoy while touched. A teacher has to monitor each child’s preference and approach by gentle touching.

6)   Slow down, as we must communicate that the school is entirely focused on the requirements of the child. A trained teacher can think and act expertly but a child is in the juncture of just learning this proficiency. So, a teacher needs to set her pace equal to a child’s pace, as a child takes lot of time to examine each apparatus and then starts to work freely.

7)   Speak and listen with respectas a teacher needs to study vigilantly and decide, what to say, how to say and whether to say it or not. We need to respect the child’s work and stay back quietly unless the child asks for assistance. It is essential to ask for his permission to take or move something that he is using. Similarly, we need to approach the child from the front and not from behind. We need to tell him what we are planning to do and should not force him to participate in activities but invite him to do so.

8)    Use non-verbal signals for quiet and stopping. During unexpected periods of emergency, we need to converse swiftly to the children for which we have to develop certain non-verbal signals. These should not be mixed up with other signals used in daily agenda or regular physical actions. Using non-verbal signals obtains the immediate attention of the children and so, should not be frequently used.

9)   Make socializing an everyday experienceA Montessori teacher’s main responsibility is to enable each child to mingle with people, cooperate and carry out social aptitude regularly. She has to present group activities, address each child by name, spend time with each child by talking, introduce story time and also present real life opportunities to practice social etiquette.

10)    Support competence and independence, by acknowledging the child’s expertise which makes the child feel that they are imperative members of the school community.

Observation and Communication

                   Observation is termed scientific as it is done systematically by careful analysis and accurate measurement of events. Observations on child behaviour are done technically which helps in predicting specific behaviour in children and their causes. Observation is also termed as an art to observe and scrutinize the practical problems children without distracting them.

Discoveries of Dr Montessori - II

                        In sequel to my earlier post, Discoveries of Dr Montessori - I, few more points are discussed here below : 


                         Maria discovered after careful study that several topics, which were considered too high or out of reach for a child’s knowledge, needs to be discussed in a House of Children. For example, topics concerning Life and Death, love, envy, bodily functions, sex roles, social awareness etc… When these topics were discussed appropriately with suitable examples, Maria saw that the children were mature enough to collect the knowledge required.


                             In the olden system of education, the teachers infused discipline on the children. But in Montessori method, a totally diverse impression of discipline is witnessed. Discipline is invented when a child absorbs an object of attraction and interest, which provides him spontaneous exercise and also a ‘Control of Error’.

                       In the House of Children, a child behaved well, taking care of himself and others. He showed disciplined behaviour in maintaining silence, handling equipments, and interacting with others. Also the freedom in control of their errors, their love for silence and the difference of opinion for rewards and criticism was clearly displayed.


                               Children build up vital social qualities where they behave in a very friendly manner with others, helping them as well as quarrelling with them sometimes. Dr Maria observed that the absence of adults does not influence their discipline or work. 

                                Maria discovered that discipline has two forms. Inner discipline is formed due to the inner urge to follow the rules for development and the Outer discipline depends entirely on this. So, even if discipline is imposed from outside, it should be independent to reveal itself from within. So, discipline and freedom are equally important.


                               Real obedience is the basis of human values like love, respect, faith, honesty etc… in character training. When this real obedience is practised at the child’s free will, it leads to a superior satisfaction, which becomes real development.


                             Maria often witnessed that children misbehaved badly by showing signs of destructiveness, disobedience and stubbornness. But in a prepared environment under a trained adult, children behave quite opposite, showing orderly, responsible, loving behaviour  Maria discovered that the misbehaviour of the child is due to the fact that the child does not find the right conditions for development. She termed this ‘ The Social question of the child’.

12) Many of the activities presented to the children in the Montessori Schools are the result of the observation and contribution of Dr Maria Montessori. They can also be termed under discoveries. For example, Exercises of Practical Life, The Silent Activity, Walking on the Line etc…

13) Above all discoveries, we could proudly say that the whole ‘Prepared Environment’ is the greatest discovery of Dr Maria, which bases various discoveries where a child can independently work on self-development for his individual and social life.

                                  We would undeniably agree that Maria is a genius and the whole credit goes to her for sacrificing her entire life for the welfare of child education through modern methods.

Discoveries of Dr Montessori - I

              Further to our earlier post, that Dr Maria Montessori made keen observations and derived at some conclusions about the development in children,  let us now jot down and discus few of her discoveries she had made during her lifetime work :


     When a set of apparatus was given to the children to be used for a limited period of time, the children were keen to go on and on as long as they wanted. So, Maria discovered that the children had inner developmental need, which stimulated them to work with great interest again and again until their goal is acquired. We as adults need to provide necessary prepared environment for this development.


    As explained in the previous point, the inner developmental need ignites an interest in the child. When the child works with an interest, the result is Spontaneous Repetition. Again, when this repetition is done with interest, the product is Concentration. Thus, any activity done with concentration enhances child development. When children are provided the right environment and apparatus, they work repeatedly until achieving a state of concentration for self-development. Maria has explained this in one of her books, where she was surprised to find a three-year old working with a cylinder and board apparatus, and repeated the exercise 42 times to fit the cylinder into the board. This observation made Maria believe that children had an inner urge for repetition of activity.


     Children require order not only with the environmental phase but also with values, functions and other human activities. 
       For example, the child gets confused when an adult does not practice human value like ‘say the truth’ in everyday life. Also, he is disturbed mentally when any object in the environment is used for a different purpose that it is meant for. For example, old unused toothbrush used for cleaning combs, the other end of a spoon used for tightening screws etc… Similarly, when we give contrary instructions on his behavior, it definitely creates a rift in him. That is, certain behavior, which we allow normally, is not allowed when a visitor is there. 

    We need to understand that a child undergoes everlasting personality development, which cannot be changed or altered once formed. The child looks for uniformity everywhere and he will recognize that things can also be unusual only as time passes by.


     Dr Montessori observed that when a number of learning apparatus is arranged in the shelves, a child has a tendency to choose the activity he finds challengeable, which he finds proportionate to his size and which is also according to his capacity. Maria learnt this principle of  ‘Freedom of Choice’ in her Casa Dei Bambini. One day when the teacher arrived late to school, she was surprised to see that the children had themselves opened the cupboard and selected the materials matching their inner need. She found them busily working with attentiveness, unaware of their surroundings or their teacher’s entry.


     When all human powers work together, the child is termed ‘Normal Child’. But, there may be deviations from this normality in some of the children because of the lack of proper conditions for their development. If the defects caused during Infancy are not corrected, they remain forever and get worse, causing repercussions on mental life and intelligence. These defects vanish when the child gets absorbed in something, which interests him. We should provide a ‘Motive for Activity’ on which the child is so interested that he becomes absorbed in it. This concentration brings back the ‘Normalisation’.


          The activities like Sensorial, Language, Arithmetic, art and culture is required for the Child’s educational foundation but Maria discovered and introduced a new concept ‘Exercises of Practical Life(EPL) which helped in the formation of personality. Examples of EPL are participation of cooking, Gardening, Cleaning the House and other regular activities. Doing these EPL helps the child to increase his intelligence, Neuro-muscular co-ordination, psycho-motor unity, strengthen his will power and voluntary his movements. These developments together constitute the formation of an Integrated Personality.