The absorbent mind of the child is one of the key concepts of the teaching method developed by the Italian teacher and doctor Maria Montessori.
Research shows where Montessori has observed that between ages 0 and 6, children learn instantly, as if their minds were a sponge that subconsciously absorbs information from external stimuli in response to the needs of each stage of development.
For his contributions to psychology and pedagogy, the absorbing mind of the child is a concept that has been constantly studied.
The spirit of children according to Montessori
Young children are often fascinated by almost everything around them. It seems like almost any stimulus can grab your attention, and no matter how many times it is presented to you, that stimulus can still be as appealing as the first time. Plus, they never seem to get bored and are constantly drawn to novelty and adventure.
According to Montessori, this is because the main characteristic of children is that, unlike adults, they can naturally, unintentionally and gradually absorb the information around them.
This is why, for Maria Montessori, the fundamental thing in learning during childhood is allow children to live experiences according to their own rhythms and needsSince it is these experiences which will later become organized perceptions of the world, and they are also those which underlie the psychic maturation of the child.
Technically, the absorbing mind is a mental state which allows the child to assimilate experiences then to analyze and integrate them, which he does unconsciously during the first 3 years, and gradually becomes conscious towards the following 3. .
From there, Montessori proposes that the absorbent mind of the child is also when the child lays the foundations for the development of an identity which is not only psychic, but also social, as it allows you to organize your experiences according to what the environment offers and demands of you.
For example, without having to go through formal learning, the child absorbs a language, customs, practices and rules from those around him, which creates a first feeling of belonging and therefore of security.
For Maria Montessori, childhood is the crucial stage in human developmentAnd it is the task of education to encourage and provide the appropriate means for children to build an autonomous identity that is also respectful of those around them.
How does the absorbing mind develop? Sensitive periods
What Maria Montessori also observed is that the mind does not absorb the same at all agesBut there are a number of predispositions that cause the child to focus his attention on a stimulus based on what is necessary for his growth. In other words, depending on their needs, children concentrate on certain things and not on others. In a natural way, they show interest and approach them, which allows them to acquire the necessary knowledge with pleasure and almost effortlessly.
This interest varies according to the stage of development, so it is a question of transitory and successive moments to which Montessori called “sensitive periods”. Although he divided them by age, he clarified that they sometimes overlap and that the length of each period can vary, as can their intensity. The main periods he described are as follows.
1. Sensitive period of the order (0 to 6 years)
Especially in the first two years of life there is a strong disposition and interest in classify and categorize everything around them, Which is favored by the order.
2. Sensitive period of movement (0-5 / 6 years)
They show a particular interest in going from one place to another, Especially if they have learned to walk.
3. Sensitive linguistic period (0 to 7 years)
Virtually no need for direct instruction they generally acquire a large vocabulary.
4. Sensitive period of sensations (0 to 6 years)
It involves the development of the senses. While hearing and sight are active from birth, as they develop, they acquire a special sensitivity and ease of learning through touch, taste and smell.
5. Sensitive period of small objects (1 to 6 to 7 years)
Yes special interest in small objects that relate to the need to pay special attention to detail
6. Sensitive period of social life (from intrauterine life to 6 years)
It refers to the need to relate to your peers and the process of acquire some important rules for coexistence.
Impact on education
Although it is easier to learn certain things depending on the moment of development, it can also happen that a sensitive period ends before the corresponding learning is achieved, which can make it very difficult to teach in the following steps.
To avoid this, educational methods should offer not only the development of intellectual skills, But appropriate elements to promote learning according to each sensitive period.
From there, Montessori also developed an explanation for children’s ‘rages’ or ‘reprimands’, which at times seem inexplicable, but which could in fact signify significant intellectual frustration at not being able to respond to stimuli that arouse them. interest.
For example, when children have spent a lot of time doing the same activity and adults tell them it’s time to move on, because it doesn’t seem important to us, or because it’s been a long time, or because that we tend to prioritize quality; although the child still needs to pay attention to this particular stimulus.
The pedagogy of Maria Montessori itself it has been described as a pedagogy of attention and concentrationPrecisely because it causes the need for children to maintain their attention on certain stimuli according to the stages of development, respecting their own interests and avoiding interference from adults.
What did neuroscience say?
In the field of neuroscience, Maria Montessori’s proposals have been studied and various empirical foundations have been found. For example, that the development of neural connections and networks in the human brain peaks between ages 0 and 3 (synaptogenesis), suggesting that indeed, during its early stages of development, the brain functions like a sponge which almost automatically absorbs everything around it.
As this development progresses, certain neural connections are prioritized according to the information that is most needed to acquire and organize. This is why, towards puberty, the child has already consolidated a more concrete learning: he has discriminated what is useful to know, to assist and to experience and what is not, according to of what the environment itself has offered or refused.
- Poussin, C. (2017). Montessori explained to parents. Editorial platform: Barcelona.
- Regni, R. (2014). The polarization of attention and the weapons of mass distraction. RELADEI, 3 (3): 97-108.
- Durant, V. and Fàbregas, M. (1998). Habit formation. Bases for free and organized work in infant education class. Accessed April 23, 2018.Available at http://www.waece.org/biblioweb07/pdfs/d036.pdf.