Montessori for Ages 3-6 – Sensitive Periods

Three- to six-year-olds are marvelous little people! They are curious and studious, loving and oftentimes quite independent. Meeting their needs requires a rich environment where they can feel safe and loved as well as challenged to explore their world.

Surprising ability to concentrate

Children of this age have a surprising ability to concentrate. Maria Montessori observed a little girl of four, much like this little girl, doing the cylinder blocks, this most interesting activity of taking the ten cylinders out, mixing them up and replacing them in the appropriate holes. Montessori watched in awe as the child repeated the entire operation forty-two times! Even when the rest of the class began to sing and to march around the classroom, the child remained fully engrossed in her work.

What is happening in this picture?










  1. This child is concentrating.
  2. She is using her pincer grip to hold the knobs.
  3. She is coordinating and controlling her movement.
  4. She is determining relative size using eye-hand coordination.
  5. She is ordering the cylinders from large to small, from left to right.
  6. The cylinders are solid wood, allowing her to feel the weight differences corresponding to size.
  7. The material answers her need for order
  8. It allows for self-correction. If she places an inset in the wrong whole, no teacher has to tell her – she can see it with her own eyes and will experiment until she solves the dilemma.
  9. This material is an external activity that corresponds to all of these internal developmental needs.
  10. The opportunity to meet all of these needs is calming and satisfying.
  11. Not every age child finds the cylinder block so especially attractive, but all young children, during sensitive periods for self-mastery in particular areas of development, seek out actions and activities that correspond with their development. That is the secret of why Montessori schools have been successful for nearly one hundred years and are still gaining adherents and credibility throughout the world.