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 )


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