The Absorbent Mind. This wonderful power the child has within her for the first 6 years of her life is an important topic for Maria Montessori. She wrote a book about it and left in it a treasure of knowledge for the adults of this world caring for the children of this world.
“The child creates his own « mental muscles » using for this what he finds in the world about him. We have named this type of mentality, the absorbent mind.”
The “absorbent mind” refers to the capacity of the child’s mind to take in information and sensations from the world that surrounds it.
Starting from birth, the newborn child’s ability to absorb what is around her seems incredible. The baby arrives in the world without language, and with few skills other than her survival instinct. It is through her senses that she will soak in everything that surrounds her.
We can differentiate 2 different phases in the first plane of development (also called first phase of development):
Maria Montessori called the child during the first half of the first plane/phase (0 to 3 years old), the unconscious absorbent mind because the infant child learns so much without realizing she is learning. She absorbs what comes from her environment through her senses or like Montessori said, « through his life ». – We refer to the child as a Spiritual Embryo. The child starts from nothing and after just a few months is able to adapt to her environment, she starts understanding what we tell her, she can move around the environment and becomes curious about everything. She learns to eat on her own more independently. To me, it is like a super power the child has within her. I watch my baby daughter going through all this and I marvel at the miracle of her Absorbent Mind.
In the second part of the first plane, the intention of the child toward her actions and work is more conscious. She consolidates what she learned during the first three years of her life.
The child is now building her ego, she can say « I » and she shows some personal preferences to keep on building her intelligence and her personality. She is going through a lot of sensitive periods and one of them is love or need of order. She also wants to know what is going on around her and needs to explore with concrete material and actions to help her make sense of the world she lives in. This is a period when the child uses her hands to explore (like she was doing before) as she refines her fine motor skills. Her actions are more voluntary, and this awakes her brain.
The child needs a lot of movement during this phase of life as it will help her realise her physical place in her surroundings and help her explore the world to further understand it.
It will all helps her build himself as a person. This will also help her build social contact. At the beginning the child still plays a lot on her own, even if she is surrounded by other children but slowly she starts building social contacts with new people, children or adults. This social awareness will help develop her character to find her place in the society she lives in.
This Absorbent Mind or super power of the child is temporary as we can observe it ends around 6-7 years old. The child does not make much effort to adapt to what is around her, she adapts with no choice and no effort from her. This Absorbent Mind is also indiscriminate as it will absorb it all in, without judgement; good or bad, it will get in. This is why our role is so important, we need to make sure the environment we are giving to our children is adapted to their needs, so they can absorb effortlessly from their surroundings in a positive way as they will be the future of our world.
I hope this description can help you understand this notion of Absorbent Mind we hear a lot in the education field.
As parents, do you notice your child absorbing interesting things with no effort?