Kids are fast pace learners and the way we learn during our first six years of life is very different from the way we learn later in life. Young brains act like a sponge, effortlessly soaking with impressions and information. To characterize this crucial developmental stage of learning, Maria Montessori named this period the absorbent mind.
Understanding the absorbent mind is a key part of the Montessori method and one of the most interesting aspects of a Montessori education.
"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!"
— Maria Montessori
During their first six years children absorb their language, the traits of their families and of their environment and this will remain the foundation of his or her personality. This is why quality education has to be a priority in early childhood.
The unconscious absorbent mind (from birth to 3 years of age):
From birth to three years of age, the child learns without being taught, by simply absorbing everything in his environment without effort and without discrimination. The child will use her senses — touch, sight, hearing, taste and smell — and naturally soak in everything happening in its environment: events, emotions, things. It is the sensitive period that Maria Montessori referred to as the 'unconscious creation' allowing for a great explosion of learning.
“…if we compare our ability as adults to that of the child, it would require us 60 years of hard work to achieve what a child has achieved in these first three years.”
"This is an intense and specialized sensitiveness in consequence of which the things about him awaken so much interest and so much enthusiasm that they become incorporated in his very existence. The child absorbs these impressions not with his mind but with his life itself."
The conscious absorbent mind (from 3 to 6 years of age): The ‘help me do it myself’ stage.
Around three years of age, the child gradually moves from the state of unconscious absorbent mind, to what Maria Montessori called the state of the conscious absorbent mind where children begins to intentionally direct and focus attention to experiences that will help them to build identity with wide interests.
During this conscious absorbent mind stage, the child starts to sort, order, and make sense of the unconsciously absorbed information therefore gaining freedom to choose his own direction. They still easily absorb information but now consciously seeking certain experiences and expanding their previously acquired abilities.
At this age they are naturally predisposed toward learning order, sequencing, and are highly motivated to participate in our daily life tasks. They will also continue to refine their control of movement, balance, will demonstrate an innate (and often intense) desire to make choices for themselves and to accomplish tasks independently.
In a Montessori environment, between the ages 3 through 6 years of age, we can give the children a broad and deep foundation gradually introducing and guiding them into engaging, self-chosen activities all eventually founding the grounding basis to develop a structured and focused learning of language, mathematics, science, music, and art when it is still completely effortless for them to learn.
The absorbent mind is the quality of the “mental chemistry” of the child’s mind up to the age of about six before gradually transitioning to the reasoning mind we have in late childhood and as adults.
"The child has a different relation to his environment from ours… the child absorbs it. The things he sees are not just remembered; they form part of his soul. He incarnates in himself all in the world about him that his eyes see and his ears hear."
— Maria Montessori