‘….the child goes through a transformation. Impressions do not merely enter his mind; they form it. They incarnate themselves in him. 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’. (Montessori, Absorbent mind pg.24)
According to Montessori’s research, birth to 6 years is the most important stage of a human being. She calls this period of life ‘The absorbent mind’. At this stage the child possesses powers which force him to adapt to his environment and also to learn language and physical skills. This essay is an attempt to explore ‘The Absorbent mind’ in a child and to understand how it helps a child gain his personality, independence and intelligence. Also, we will explore how parents and teachers need to help and guide a child during this period to optimise his/her development.
What is the ‘Absorbent mind’?
Geddes and Grosset’s dictionary defines ‘Absorbent’ and ‘Mind’ as,
Absorbent:Imbibing; swallowing; able to soak up moisture
Mind: The intellectual faculty or power; intellect; reason; understanding; inclination; opinion; memory
At birth a child is helpless and needs constant care and support from his mother for survival. Within days or hours after birth the child will begin to develop his personality and this can be observed in the way each newborn bonds and responds with their parents. Soon his movement will begin to be more controlled and within a year he will begin to walk. By 2 years he will speak his mother tongue competently. How does he do this? This is a great power a child is born with, a power to learn from nothing. All this is not done consciously but with what is called the ‘unconscious mind’. This type of mind is also called the ‘absorbent mind’. It is a psychic force which makes it possible for the child to absorb and to understand the environment to which he or she has come into.
The absorbent mind is active in a child from birth to 6 years. Within this time the newborn baby with such limited abilities and so dependant for his mother’s love and care begins a journey to independence. At the end of the 6th year he is able to walk, talk, socialize and concentrate. Although, if observed very carefully, a child gains most of his skills in the first 3 years of his life and then he continues to refine and develop the skills in the following 3 years. At the end of the 6th year he has developed into a child ready for compulsory education. Seeing the importance of the first 3 years of life Montessori named it ‘The Psychic Embryo’ and the latter part of the absorbent mind she called the ‘The Social Embryo’. The Absorbent Mind is at the highest level of its strength from birth -3 years and from 3 years-6 years it gradually fades away with the arrival of ‘The Conscious Mind’.
Characteristics of the Absorbent mind and how it works
The Absorbent Mind helps a child to adapt to the new environment. The foundation for the continuous development till he reaches puberty and adulthood is laid in the first 3 years of a child’s life. Therefore The Absorbent Mind is a complex post. To understand it we need to look at the characteristics it possesses.
It is a powerful psychic post or mental energy
Although we see a great development in the physical aspect of a child’s development we cannot see any psychological development in a child. But research shows that there is a lot going on in a child’s mind. Speaking of one such energy Dr. Montessori writes,
‘To us, the mental organism is a dynamic whole, which transforms its structure by active experience obtained from its surroundings [the environment]; it is guided thereto by an energy [horme′] of which the nebulae are differentiated and specialized kinds or stages.’(The Absorbent Mind, Pg 74)
Horme′ is the vital force or energy which is present and active in the Absorbent Mind which guides a child’s efforts,...