Montessori

Introduction to Absorbent Mind

Dr. Montessori defined an Absorbent Mind when a “child is effortless assimilating the sensorial stimuli of the environment”

One analogy for this concept: a sponge soaking in everything within the environment. Another analogy: a camera snapping images of everything it sees through the lens.

“The ‘absorbent mind‘ welcomes everything, puts its hope in everything, accepts poverty equally with wealth, adopts any religion and the prejudices and habits of its countrymen, incarnating all in itself. This is the child!”The Absorbent Mind {pg. 292}

What is the Absorbent Mind

According to the American Montessori Society, the Absorbent Mind is: “From birth through approximately age 6, the young child experiences a period of intense mental activity that allows her to “absorb” learning from her environment without conscious effort, naturally and spontaneously.”

A child is born without the ability to speak or to take care of himself but within the first three years of his life through the use of his senses he gathers the information he needs to develop, to “create and construct” himself. He gathers naturally without thinking.

The Absorbent Mind & Sensitive Periods

“Impressions do not merely enter his mind, they form it, they incarnate themselves in him.”   –  The Absorbent Mind

Montessori broke the Absorbent Mind down into two phases:  1) the unconscious (from 0-3 years old) and 2) the conscious (from 3-6 years old).

Unconscious & Conscious Phases

During the 0-3 year period, the child unknowingly gathers impressions from his environment, begins to develop the “self-concept” and life skills, such as independence.

Once he enters the latter period of development, the child is consciously taking in his environment, not with new impressions but seeking ways to give order to, or to create a system for, those impressions gathered unconsciously during the prior period of development.

Movement and liberty are big inner drivers at this time. This is the “let me do it by myself” stage and us adults should allow that to happen. The Absorbent Mind fades as he reaches six years of age.

Montessori’s Sensitive Periods

Within that concept of the Absorbent Mind, she defined Sensitive Periods of Development.

“Sensitive periods describe the pattern the child follows in gaining knowledge of his environment while Absorbent Mind explains the quality and process by which he gathers this knowledge.” {Montessori: A Modern Approach, pg. 36)

Sensitive periods are “blocks of time in a child’s life when he is absorbed with one characteristic of his environment to the exclusion of all others”.

Related Read: Learn the Advantages of a Multi-Age Classroom

E.M. Standing writes, “Montessori observed sensitive periods in the child’s need for order in the environment, the use of the hand and tongue, the development of walking, a fascination with minute details objects, and a time of intense social interest.”

Montessori’s background in biology lends to very effective analogies to these periods in a child’s life. A young butterfly lays eggs on a leaf, where tiny caterpillars hatch and with a keen sensitivity to light seek out the softest leaves to nourish themselves in dangerous spots on plants. Once the caterpillars grow and are strong enough to eat tougher leaves, this sensitivity to light disappears. Another analogy is a searchlight (coming from the mind) illuminating only certain parts of the environment.

Like creatures in science, the child will show an intense interest in a certain activity and be driven to repeat the activity again and again for no reason but to satisfy an inner urge to make contact with and then to make sense of his world.

Related Read: Montessori Kindergarten – Yay or Nay?

The dire aspect of this point lies in the belief that once a child leaves a sensitive period, the opportunity for a “natural consequence” is lost and further development will be impeded. {Montessori: A Modern Approach, pg. 25 & 32)

So, as soon as adults witness a child entering a certain sensitive period, the adult must do all possible within his power to cater to the child’s development.

Thanks for reading.

Marnie

Marnie Craycroft

Marnie hails from Maine where she spent summers buried in sand and winters buried in snow. She is the daughter of a nearly four decade veteran of the public school systems. Teaching has always been a part of her life. She founded Carrots Are Orange in 2010.

Carrots Are Orange is a Montessori learning and living website for parents and teachers.

Marnie graduated from Wesleyan University in 1999 with a BA in Economics. She spent nearly a decade working in investment management. In 2006, she earned her MA in business from the University of Washington’s Foster School of Business.

Marnie moved to the west coast in 1999 and currently lives in Boulder with her husband and three sons. She is Montessori trained. Her work has been featured on Apartment Therapy, Buzzfeed, PBS Kids, BabyCenter, the Melissa & Doug blog, Huffington Post, and WhattoExpect.com. Besides writing, passions include running (usually after her three sons), photography, and outdoor adventures.

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