Montessori per Crescere

Montessori and the Sensitive periods: 5 ways to support children’s need for order





The the Montessori method, both in the family and at school, is focused on understanding and knowing the needs of children. Our parental style, the educational approach and in general the way in which we relate to children, have above all the purpose of responding adequately to the needs that appear and develop during the early years and that Dr Montessori defines as sensitive periods and human tendencies.

“If a child has not been able to act according to the directives of his sensitive period, the opportunity of a natural conquest is lost, and is lost for good” M. Montessori.

The minds of children in the first six years of life possess the incredible ability to effortlessly absorb everything that the surrounding environment has to offer. The development process is not accidental but driven primarily by some needs that appear, grow, peak, and disappear. These needs are expressed both in the need to perfect a skill and in the conditions necessary for development to proceed in the best way. The main sensitive periods that Montessori identifies are that of language, movement, order and socialisation. Some appear from birth, while others, like the interest in the social aspects, are visible only from the age of three.

“Order is one of the needs of life which, when satisfied, produces true happiness” M. Montessori.

One of the first sensitive periods that appears from birth and is particularly strong during the first three years of life is the need for order. The presence of external order helps the child to understand the surrounding world, categorise it and consequently build his internal order. The order we are talking about is not only physical but also mental. Let's see in detail how the Montessori educational approach satisfies the children's need for order.

  1. Everything in its place – an innate need. Children thrive in a predictable and structured environment, where each object has a designated and predetermined place. Building the environment in a structured way not only simplifies life but satisfies the innate need of every human being for orientation, to feel safe and in control of the surrounding environment.
  2. Order and the need for independence. The physical order is directly linked to another fundamental necessity of children which is that of independence. If everything is in its place, they will not need to constantly ask for our help but will be able to move around the house independently.
  3. Order as predictability. Creating and following a pre-established routine supports the natural and positive flow of the day. When children know what to expect at any moment, the inevitable transitions that occur within a day stop being an adult-imposed constraint to become a natural element of everyday life.
  4. Order and routine. The routine should not be seen as a list of activities to be performed strictly at a specific time, but rather as a rhythm that characterises the day, with minimal variations that are inevitable, it remains substantially unchanged in its structure. In our previous article dedicated to the morning routines, you will find some useful tips to start the day in a positive way.
  5. Order and discipline. It is important for the rules to be clear, simple but above all that they always remain the same. Only in this way will children develop the ability to self-regulate, adapt to the external environment and will have clear in mind what behaviour adults expect from them at all times.

"There is in the child a special kind of sensitivity which leads him to absorb everything about him, and it is this work of observing and absorbing that alone enables him to adapt himself to life. He does it in virtue of an unconscious power that exists in childhood” M. Montessori.

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