Charlotte Montessori Blog

Shadows of Childhood: Sensitive Period

A shadow of a child…


A shadow is a dark area or shape produced by a body coming between rays of light and a surface. Shadows on the ground seem to be concrete but as you move closer the shadow vanishes. When you look around, it shows up again. You can’t hold a shadow and you can’t touch it.
Shadows aren’t auditory, they are visual reminder of who we are in the moment. We must be in the moment to see the shadow and we must be aware of the moment going away.
The shadows of childhood are an outline or as Maria Montessori, calls it the sensitive period; a particular phase in development in which a child will be more open, attentive and have the capability to learn particular concepts or develop a specific skill. There is an innate drive that motivates the child, similar to a turning on a light switch/engine of their brain, which inundate they’re being with attentiveness and eagerness to explore. During this period, the child will get involved in doing a repetitive thing over and over again until suddenly they have developed a new skill. According to the Geography and History for the Young Child by Tim Seldin and Donna Raymond: Some of the most important sensitive periods that occur from birth to around the age of six include sensitivity of language (4m-5yrs), order (6m-5years), detail (2 ½), sensorial exploration (0-3 ½ -4), precise movement (2 ½-4yrs), writing words (3 ½-4 ½), numbers (4-4 ½), manners: grace and courtesy (3 ½ -6), sensitive to tactile experiences (0-4 yrs.), Sensitive period to color (2-6 yrs.), sensitive period of dimension (2-6yrs.), Sensitive to pitch, sound, and quality ( 2-6yrs.)
The child’s learning during these early stages is not complete, nor has it reached the internalized abstraction stage that will develop as he/she grows older. It is instead the foundation upon which much that follows will be built. The special sensitivity that occurs throughout the development process; Children develop at their own rates and there may be variability in the times when the first periods emerge. Even if the specific function or characteristic was not fully acquired during this time, the sensitivity still disappears like a shadow only to be replaced by another. Understanding the sensitive periods of each developmental stage is important for meeting the individual needs of children and helping them actualize their highest potential by recognizing the light that comes to the surface.

Sophia Robinson
Lead Teacher Toddler III