Montessori Sensitive Periods

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A sensitive period refers to “a special sensibility which a creature acquires in its infantile state" (Montessori, 1966, p.38). Such sensitive periods were first discovered in insects by the Dutch scientist Hugo de Vries, but according to Montessori, can also be found in children and are very important to consider in teaching. Each sensitive period is a "transient disposition and is limited to the acquisition of a particular trait" (Montessori, 1966, p.38). Once the sensitive period is over, the sensibility disappears due to the fact that the development of the brain has progressed past the point at which specific information is absorbed. According to Montessori, during a sensitive period it is very easy for the child to acquire certain…show more content…
They become aware that they are part of a community (for instance their nursery or playgroup) and he or she "attempts to learn manners and serve others as well as himself". Such social interest is shown initially as observation, but later develops into a need for more active contact with peers. According to Montessori, it is vitally important to support and facilitate these periods during the child's first stage of development. If the child is prevented from following the innate desire of any given sensitive period, a disturbing effect could result on both psychic development and maturity. The child must be assisted through the sensitive periods. The adult must assist the child by providing a suitable environment. Montessori believed 2 conditions were necessary for a child's psychic growth to occur. Firstly the child is dependent upon a close relationship with their environment, both the things and the people within it. Secondly, the child needs freedom. Without these conditions being met, the psychic life of a child will not reach its potential and the child's personality will be stunted. In the words of Montessori, for the children who have "met with severe obstacles during this period, deviations of personality may ensue" (Montessori, 1988, p.178). Adverse consequences of not recognizing and supporting the child's sensitivities may therefore result. The role of a Montessori teacher is to ensure that the materials in the prepared environment
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