The phrase 'sensitive periods in human development' may sound like it refers to moody teenagers, but it actually refers to periods of time when a child easily absorbs information in a specific way. The most important sensitive periods occur between birth and age six. Learn more in this lesson.
Example And Definition
Meet two year old Ronnie. Ronnie is fascinated by small objects. He will spend hours picking up small items to examine them, and he is learning how to manipulate them in his hands. Why is Ronnie obsessed with this behavior?
One answer to this question may be that he is going through one of the sensitive periods of development.
Sensitive periods is a term developed by the Dutch geneticist Hugo de Vries and later used by the Italian educator Maria Montessori. The term refers to several overlapping periods of development where a child is sensitive to a particular stimuli or type of interaction.
According to Montessori, from birth until about the age of six, we seem to learn from our environment without any conscious effort. Young children become skilled at numerous activities without formal instruction. They may not even be aware that they're learning. According to supporters of the idea of sensitive periods, this occurs because it is very easy for children to acquire certain abilities during a specific sensitive period. Also, once a sensitive period is passed, the development of the brain has progressed past the point where that particular ability can be easily absorbed. After this, the ability must be formally taught, it will take a great deal of effort to learn and will not be as readily acquired by the child.
Montessori also notes that there are five observable behaviors that characterize sensitive periods.
First, you will see the child engaged in a clear activity with a beginning, middle, and end.
Second, the activity will be irresistible to the child.
Third, the child will return to the activity again and again.