Understanding Babies & Toddlers…

The Sensitive Period for order is a really fascinating one, and one that can cause challenges for us as parents when we don’t understand it. Young children often like things to be done a certain way and if we do things differently to what they’re used to, they can get really l upset. This Sensitive Period tends to peak at around 18 months to 2 years but can be seen in children younger and older than this.

Children in the middle of the Sensitive Period for order will get upset by seemingly unimportant things – having the wrong spoon for example – and often adults feel annoyed. But this isn’t about control or manipulation or having a tantrum. There’s a really good reason for having such a sensitivity to order.

Babies are working hard to build their brains and the sensitive period for order helps them to organise their brain like a well catalogued library. They need to organise all the information they’re taking in constantly. There is of course security and predictability in order too. When things are done a certain way children know what to expect and they feel safe.

To help young children with this sensitive period we can do three main things –

  1. Provide an environment that’s inherently orderly. This isn’t just about being tidy – it’s about children finding security in knowing where to find and access the things they need. For example, having a clearly laid out activity shelf where things are returned to the same place each time; always changing the baby in the same place; or having a little table set up with a cup of water to access when needed.
  2. Respect their need for and love of order in routines & daily events. Have you ever found that you do meal times in a certain sequence, or dressing, and then change it and wonder why they get hysterically upset? Do they always have a blue cup and on the one day they have a green one it leads to a meltdown? It’ll be that sensitive period for order.
  3. Provide activities that respond to and support children’s need for order. An example is to have simple sorting activities (for example sorting different coloured balls or chips). When you do activities have a clear sequence they can follow – this will make them love it even more, and make it more achievable.

Remember – if your child gets upset because they think things should be done a certain way, don’t worry it isn’t “pandering” to them to respect this need. You’re helping them feel safe and secure, and helping them build an organised mind! The sensitive period won’t last forever & when it ends they won’t have the same intense need for it.