Montessori's Sensitive Period for Order


When I read about the Montessori sensitive periods I get really nervous and fearful that I am not providing everything my daughter may need for optimal development. I read in your Face Book post about the Sensitive Period for Order. What should I be doing if she is in this sensitive period? How can I encourage her and help her to be her best? Do I need more order and structure in our day? What about routines? Thanks for your input!

I've tried to be consistent at home with whatever my son's routine was at school, when they ate snack, lunch, napped... While at the same time serving dinner at the same time each night, and using the same routine: he always gets in his PJs first (and very early because he wants to be the one to do it all--with a little help from me); dinner is at the same time, then one 30 minute TV program, followed by going into his room where he can play (and we read three books). We've done this routine for quite a few years! I always knew we needed a routine, I didn't always know what it would entail.

As for mornings, that routine adjusted over time but it's pretty much the same routine (we do the same things in the same order each morning).

For my son what works is getting dressed as soon as he gets out of bed (and going potty) but it wasn't always this way, it was trial and error! But once I found the best routine, I stuck with it!

The following passages are from my Montessori teacher album (by Ursula Thrush):

The sensitive periods are transitory periods in the child's life during which she is prompted by an inner urge to focus her attention on certain elements in her environment. The activities and impressions resulting from this activity help the child to form a faculty with which to fulfill a tendency....

After a spell of work done at the imperious bidding of this inner urge, the child, or individual, feels better, stronger, calmer--simply because he has been creating herself. A sensitive period has a beginning, a high point, and a fading out phase. It has a period of building and a period of perfecting....

The sensitive period for order reveals itself when the child reaches his second year and it lasts for about two years. Its high point is at three years. At this time the child has a passionate interest in the order of things in time and space. Everything has to be in its proper place and the actions of the day have to be carried out in an accustomed routine. A child of 2-1/2 years is upset by not getting his usual spoon, or cupboard door [is] left open, or the corner of a rug turned over; or a story being retold with different words or turns of events. Small children can be driven frantic by such infringements [changes in] established order, and they often protest with temper tantrums. The adult might not know what caused the tantrum but the child can not live in disorder. He needs the stability and the security that order gives. [Think how you would react if you went to work and your desk was gone--moved, or you return home and the stove is in the bathtub! I can’t stress enough the importance of order for 3 to 6-year-olds!]

The order in the child’s environment is his foundation, he absolutely needs it for orientation. First, for physical orientation to find his way around, and later in mental orientation and for classification, this sensitive period establishes within him the rhythm he needs in order to fulfill his tendency for order.

In [a Montessori environment] we meet the child’s need for order by giving every piece of material its proper place, by presenting materials in the same order of sequence and by teaching the child to replace materials in order and ready for use by someone else.

As the child passes into his 4th and 5th year, the sensitive period for order becomes calmer and his reactions toward disorder are not as violent and disturbing as before. This period lasts from about 2 to 4 years.

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You may also be interested in my Montessori and homeschool programs and PDFs at Montessori for the Earth.