How to be aware of the Sensitive Periods to aid Early Learning.
The phenomenon of children’s Sensitive Periods is not widely known by parents and teachers. However, they strongly influence the direction of children’s development.
Knowing about the presence of these tendencies in young children will help solve what is puzzling to most parents. Questions such as –
“Why is the child so upset?”
“Why does he do that over and over?”
In the early years, children experience successive periods of sensitivity. They are feelings or special tastes that help them make particular choices. Something lights up in the environment for the child and draws his attention.
His sensitivity to –
• Social aspects of life.
• Small objects.
• Learning through the senses.
• Analysis of movement.
• Focus of attention.
A child repeats an activity until he has grasped it. At this point, learning the activity becomes obsolete and he moves on to the next one.
Every mother or father has patiently, or impatiently watched their toddler going up and down stairs.
There is no sense in delaying his desire to do this, because he must learn this skill responding to the corresponding Sensitive Period.
This is the best time to allow it to happen,
His own choice is the best choice, as he is following his interest and working according to any Sensitive Period he may be experiencing.
It is the same with his other developments. It is easier for a child to learn a skill during the corresponding Sensitive Period than at any other period in his life.
As the child grows there are certain times in his young life when the calls from nature distract him. At that time, he may not follow your instructions; his influence is nature’s strong command. He is naturally urged to act in a certain way and has a tremendous attraction to particular things. At these times, it is important to observe what fascinates him, and to allow him time to repeat that activity for as long as it interests him. It is important to not miss these opportunities because there may not be another time to embrace the tendency again in the same natural way.
There are periods when children have a special sensitivity to order, and at this time they expect events to follow a pattern. When things do not proceed as imagined, it tests his sensitivity to order. This is a common cause of tantrums. When we are aware of this influence working with young children, it explains their reactions. This sensitivity to order is also evident sometimes in older children.
An Example –
At my preschool we played a game called “Sea Shells”. The children pretended to be seashells and remained quite still on the mat until I tapped them gently on the back. When they felt a tap they quietly got up and went outside.
On Open Day there were many parents and visitors at the preschool.
Jake 5yo, had been a pupil for one year and knew all the games, but for the new children I played the game with a slight difference. To everyone’s surprise, Jake misbehaved and reacted loudly refusing to play. When his mother appealed to him, he shouted at her and shocked the parents with his outburst. He expected the game he knew, not the changed version.
By understanding the growth periods, and allowing children the freedom of choice, new, individual and unexpected outcomes can emerge.
The repetition of an activity gives parents a clue that the child is in a particular Sensitive Period. Observing the influence this phase has on the choices he makes explains his behaviour.
Recognising these Sensitive Periods can be a great aid in understanding the phases of development of young children. It prevents any misunderstanding that can cause annoyance and anxiety about their behaviour.
When you recognise a Sensitive Period it is a prompt to provide the learning materials corresponding to that intense interest.