Ramalynn Academy
Sensitive Periods In Child Development
Cassy Ramalingam

The predispositions, called Sensitive Periods, are one of the most important discoveries made by Dr. Maria Montessori. They are periods of psychological development in the child. It is Maria's observations of Sensitive Periods that she founded her principle of "education as assistance to life". 

At birth the basic foundations of the child's psyche are formed. Construction of the mind begins and is formed unconsciously. The unconscious mind works globally and absorbs everything without direction. After a time, there seems to be another activity where the child's mind is directed towards particular aspects of her environment. Her interests become focused. She is directed to the acquisition of spoken language, movement, order and sensorial exploration. Thus begins the Sensitive Periods. 

Dr. Montessori identified four main Sensitive Periods: Order, Spoken Language, Movement and Sensorial Activity. These are universal. All children have the same Sensitive Periods all over the world at approximately the same time in life for the same developmental purpose. This period occurs from birth to 6 years of age. 

Positive & Negative Manifestations

Once we are aware of the Sensitive Periods, we can't help but notice them. They manifest themselves in two different ways. The first being positive and the second being negative. Some examples of positive manifestations are learning to speak, and gaining the skill of concentration and focus. In a negative manifestation, the child's environment does not provide them with what they need to develop a certain sensitive period, not allowing it to come to fruition. This can be frustrating to a young mind, and can cause them to act out.

Within a positive manifestation, the child decides their actions by the prompting of natural laws. There is concentration, tremendous activity (babbling, walking, perseverance), joy with which the child performs an activity, and perfect acquisition. We take these positive manifestations for granted much of the time. We often find it easier to detect the negative than to realize the marvelous results of all of the child's hard work. 

How We Can Support Our Child

It is very important that as adults we provide for these sensitivities and prepare the environment within the home and in the classroom. For example, children need to explore sensorially through touch. We often tell a child not to touch, but touch is how the child learns about his environment. The child needs to touch. Dr. Montessori developed the Sensorial area within the classroom to help develop the child's senses. 

Sensitive Periods are simultaneous. However, when we see the child is focused on her sensitivity for language it is hard to imagine the child also having sensitivities for movement and order as well. The child can psychologically be in four different places at the same time! 

In order to meet the child's needs during the Sensitive Periods we must allow her to explore. We must give her order to make her feel secure. We must provide great exposure to spoken language and we must provide materials which allow her to develop concentration. 

When all of these needs are met in the environment, the child thrives. She is confident, focused, calm, caring and inquisitive. She is aglow with a love for herself and for the world around her.


  • Child Development
  • Cognitive Development

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