The Spiritual Embryo, Absorbent Mind and the Sensitive Periods

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At birth, the human being’s physical development is (more or less) complete However, Dr Montessori said that the new born child is psychologically still in an embryonic state – his inner development is incomplete. For this reason, she said that the human being is a ‘spiritual embryo’ when he is born. After birth, the child’s task is to create him/herself. The child does this through his interactions with his environment, and therefore, we must provide the child with an environment which is carefully prepared for and suited to the child’s needs at this early stage of development - just as the womb is perfectly suited to the child’s developmental needs in the first embryonic stage. The child’s personality and inner development (including intelligence, etc) are vulnerable to negative influences. Just as neglect of the physical embryo is detrimental to its development and wellbeing, so too neglecting the developmental needs of the child (spiritual embryo) in the early formative years will cause lasting damage to the child’s inner psychological development. The child needs an environment that is safe, rich in stimulation, and is perfectly suited to their developmental needs. These needs are not the same as the adult’s needs.

During the formative years from birth to six, the child has a mind which is different to ours. It is an absorbent mind, capable of incredible powers of absorption, which is just as well, because This is a period of adaptation for the child – the developmental task the child must complete at this stage is the construction of him/her self, and their adaptation to the environment they find themselves in. (Remember the human tendencies?) We cannot learn about the world at this early stage except through our senses. Everything - every sensorial impression (colour, texture, shape, sound, word, etc) that the child comes into contact with during the first 3 years is unconsciously and immediately absorbed into their...
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