Sensitive Periods in Early Child Development: Refinement of Senses

Encourages auditory development from 18 months up

This sensitive period is consistent throughout a child’s early years from birth to 5 or 6 years of age. It can however be broken down more specifically into the following approximate ages.

  • Manipulating of small objects between 1 to 3 years of age
  • Exploration of the senses between 2 ½ to 3 years of age
  • Classification of objects between the ages of 2 ½ to 6 years

Sensory refinement is a natural part of your child’s development as the brain gradually begins to distinguish between various sensory stimuli. The Montessori approach accentuates such stimuli through its prepared environment of numerous materials that not only capture interest in children but also encourage the stimulation of the five senses. These materials in a Montessori setting are categorized as Sensorial. From knobbed cylinders to solid geometric shapes, these sensorial materials are toys and objects that have definite sensory objectives for children when introduced at different age groups.

An efficient way to nurture your little one’s growing brain is to keep him/her exposed repeatedly to materials that meet sensory objectives. This way, by the end of this sensitive period around the age of 4 or 5, your child would be able to successfully develop sensitivity to the things in his/her environment that are more mentally significant than others. Other than specific Montessori materials used in schools, you will be glad to know that there are a number of things you can look out for when picking out toys for the home.

  • Toys that appeal visually – through colors, illustrations and graphics
  • Toys that stimulate the sense of smell (olfactory) – scented bubbles, balls, bottles
  • Toys with auditory stimulation – through sound including electronic toys, CDs and videos, sound puzzles, musical toys and books, musical instruments.
  • Toys that appeal to the sense of touch (tactile) – through various textures on toys, sand and water play materials, tactile mats/tiles and touch tablets with different surfaces.

Most educational toys and materials are also made with multi-sensory objectives. Animal puzzles, colorful musical toys and various activity boards for instance, feature more than one sensory stimulus.

An added tip: Take your precious one out for frequent walks in the park or to areas of interest. The most natural way of fine tuning the senses is to surround your child with nature’s blessings – the sound of birds, pitter-patter of rain and soft breeze against your little one’s cheek.

About the Author

Sarah Jane is certified & trained in Montessori Teaching, with years of expansive knowledge and experience with young children from diverse backgrounds and cultures. Sarah Jane expresses her love and interest for child development through her writing, constantly sharing and promoting awareness to parents and educational workers from all walks of life. She is also the co-founder of a multinational marketing firm Hot Fry Media (http://hotfrymedia.com).

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