The absorbent mind is a period of time in child development from birth through around the age of six, where young children experiences a period of intense mental activity that allows them to absorb learning from the environment without conscious effort, naturally and spontaneously. The child absorbs not only language, but also the traits of their family and community. They learn how to behave in different situations, along with simple tasks like how to eat properly. Some of this learning is consciously taught, but great deal of it is simply absorbed naturally by the child’s mind.
Through Maria Montessori’s research, she understood that children from birth to 6 are influenced a great deal by the environment which surrounds them. She called this period of time The Absorbent Mind, and likened the child’s development to that of a construction site, where the child uses local resources to build his or her mind and because those are the only resources on hand to work with.
It is worth point out that this time of development is very different to the reasoning mind which follows later. Montessori said that when a child grows to the point of using the reasoning mind, they can actively make decisions based on logic & patterns already established by the brain, but during the time of the absorbent mind, the child merely journeys through life, learning and growing, influenced by their environment.
According to Montessori, the absorbent mind can be divided into two stages: the Unconscious and Conscious Stages.
- The Unconscious Stage: From birth to age three, the child absorbs information unconsciously or unknowingly. He ( or she) learns to sit, stand, walk, speak without conscious effort. An infant will look at everything intently without discrimination or choice. Children during this period tends to unconsciously mimic what they see, but lack conscious goals or purpose to their actions. During this period, children also acquire language skills, and begin to absorb social customs from the people around them that they internalize into themselves.
- The Conscious Stage: Around the age of three, we begin to see the emergence of consciousness, indicating the beginning of memory and conscious awareness. The child still absorbs information easily, but now motivated to consciously seek particular experiences. A child in this phase is expanding newly developed faculties and abilities, and tends to learn things like order, like music, numbers, and letter sounds. This learning will lead to math, reading, and writing skills. During this phase, children also become more independent, and seek mastery of their mind, body, and environment.
The child’s absorbent mind is like a sponge, soaking up knowledge about everything in the local environment. What children learn during this period is taken in easily, and becomes the foundations of the child’s personality. As parents & educators, it is important that we recognize that the importance of this developmental stage and find ways to help the child absorb the best experiences possible.