Order.When we think of order, most often the image or idea that comes into mind is things in a row, things perfectly lined up, clean, neat, tidy, structured, etc. There is a bit of a confusion when culturally (today) we refer to things having order. In some ways, it's militant. Children are supposed to be "orderly". Things are supposed to be in order. We must obey orders, so on and so forth. However, when Dr. Montessori referred to a child having sensitive periods and one of the earliest and strongest being their "sense of order," she did not imply my previous descriptions.
From birth to 6 during the absorbent mind the child goes through creative periods or windows of opportunity which are transitory blocks of time in which he is passionately absorbing with one aspect of his environment to the exclusion of others.
These (passions) actions allow him to acquire a certain skill or capacity. The sensitive period has well defined activities guided by an unconscious inner drive towards the environment. The child looks fascinated with what he is doing. It makes the child repeat and repeat with enormous interest so he can establish the function.
Dr. Montessori talked about 4 main sensitive periods: language, order, refinement or movement, and refinement of senses. They are characterized as transitory: they will only remain for a definite and limited time and disappear to never return. They will disappear if the skill has developed or not, and they all run parallel for those initial 6 years. ALL children have and go through these periods.
A child will know, to sweep up a mess the steps are: to get a broom, sweep all items to a pile carefully, place the boom back, get a dustpan and brush, take the brush out, sweep it many times catching the dirt in the pan, emptying the pan into the trash can (the trash can may need to be opened, then closed), then place the brush back on the dustpan, and then return it to it's place.
Orderliness is NOT a sense of order.
In my own two children I have seen their sense of order come and go, I have seen them stronger in one, then at times stronger in the other and both at different ages. My older daughter had a very strong sense or order when she was really young, and at times still does. We had to do the same routine. My husband and I would joke that she would be upset if we did something differently, and we'd have to walk back and repeat the motion in the way in which she knew it should have been done. Now, my second child who is two and a half is exhibiting very similar patterns now. She had other things which she was captivated by in her younger months.