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Montessori in a Minute: Sensitive Periods

The first six years of a child's life is a time of pure discovery and exploration. With each new experience, their brain absorbs further information and makes invaluable connections that last their entire life.

Dr. Maria Montessori observed that children go through certain transitions where they are acutely aware of specific activities. The Montessori curriculum centers around these desires. For example, the six specific sensitive periods that emerge during these first six years of development are:

  • Order

  • Language (and Writing)

  • Learning through the senses

  • Movement

  • Social aspects of life

More About the Montessori Sensitive Periods


Order is one of the first sensitive periods that emerges in each child. Young children crave order, structure, routine, and consistency from birth. Infants create order as soon as they can, usually by lining up their toys or packing them in a specific order.

Language (and Writing)

The period for language spans every skill from infant babbling, beginning around seven months of age, to reading and writing skills refined in Lower Elementary. Children absorb language through immersion. By speaking clearly to a child, reading, or singing with them, parents help children develop the ability to speak for themself, develop opinions, and gain independence.

Students gain an interest in writing from 3.5 to 4.5 years of age. They start with practicing the alphabet before moving to sight words, forming the foundation for reading and writing skills. From 4.5 to 5.5, children learn to read by combining their writing foundation with their improved visual-tracking skills.

Learning Through the Senses

Children develop sensory skills in two phases: sensory awareness and sensory sensitivity of touch, taste, sight, and smell. Sensory awareness occurs from age 1 to 3 and is characterized by the child's fixation on small objects. These items and details are things the child can manipulate and control, allowing them to explore their senses while maintaining their need for order. From ages 2.5 to 6, children seek out new and unique sensory experiences. Parents help them group objects with similar traits and describe materials with different textures.


Movement, the fourth sensitive period, is also divided into two stages. From birth to 2.5 years, children are sensitive to gross and fine motor development. They strengthen their muscles until they can crawl, pull up, and walk without assistance. Over time, children add fine motor skills by repeating activities that support their hand muscles and improve hand-eye coordination.

From ages 2.5 to 4.5, children refine their coordination and small movements. At this age, the child begins to hold items using both hands and develops the pincer grip.

Social Development

Montessori's mixed-aged classrooms help support the fifth sensitive period for social skills. Children aged 2.5 to 5 begin to form friendships and explore social dynamics. Students are taught manners, emotional connection, and other positive social behaviors at home and at school.

Knowing what to expect is key to supporting your child through each sensitive period. Once familiar with each stage, you can follow your child's lead as they grow through every step. Each of our teachers ensures adequate materials are available and respect your child's individual interests and passions to support their development through each new period.

The Montessori in a Minute Series

This "Montessori In A Minute" series regularly explores the unique benefits of Montessori philosophy, its fundamental materials, and areas of the classroom. For all parents at Hudson Montessori School (Jersey City, New Jersey), the school hosts several Parent Education Nights a year to learn about the Montessori method and how the students learn curriculum components using a Montessori framework.

Please contact us to learn more about Hudson Montessori School's interdisciplinary, theme-based learning approach to education, the Montessori philosophy and methodology, or how the school fosters the love of learning for children aged 2 to eighth grade.

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