Making the Most of Sensitive Periods

Over the last month or so, Joey’s been in a sensitive period for language. He’s often practicing his writing, painting, more focused in practical life activities than usual, using his chalkboard, reading books, and is fascinated with learning how to spell his name.

Last week he read his first 8 words in the pink series. I’m treading carefully here, because I don’t want to push him too fast, too hard but I also want to maximize this sensitive period.

While we’re in this stage, I thought it would be good to share how to encourage a sensitive period. But first, what is a sensitive period?

A sensitive period is a period of time when a child spends much of their time and energy focused on one certain skill or activity.

During a sensitive period, a child is able to learn the skill quicker and more effectively. After the sensitive period has passed the child is still capable of learning the skill or activity, but will be more of a challenge.

Tips for Making the Most of a Sensitive Period

  • Give ample time to practice the skill.
    • Don’t rush them in the activity.
    • If they want to spend an extended amount of time working on a particular activity, then let them. I remember one student sat and worked on basic practical life activities (spooning, pouring) for an hour! Back and forth, back and forth…while it looks like rote work there is a lot going on behind the scenes!
  • Provide activities that encourage the skill.
    • Keep activities in the child’s zone of proximal development, which is just a fancy way to say make the activity not so easy or too hard to be frustrating, but challenging.
    • Rotate activities often. Give variations of the same skill.
  • Overlap skills
    • Joey’s in a sensitive period for language. He spends a lot of time drawing, writing, and coloring. To reinforce proper pencil grip and discipline to finish a task, I emphasize practical life activities like tweezing, tonging, and play dough.
    • Another way we overlap skills is by giving him activities that teach and develop his cognitive skills like sorting (by size, color, classification), pattern work (making & finding patterns), puzzles, and matching/memory games.

      All of these work on reasoning, order, and cognitive skills that are needed for reading.

What are some ways you encourage sensitive periods in your children?


2 comments… add one

  • Jany October 11, 2011, 2:44 pm

    Hi Jessica,
    You are amazing mother. Congratulations.
    HOw Ols is Joey? I have 25 moths boy and I would like to stat activities with Tonging where can I buy it?
    Please let me know.

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