Do you have a little person in your house between the ages of birth and six years old? Do you know someone who does? Then, you need to know about the Absorbent Mind period because there are some very specific things parents can do to make the most of these very important years.
This week we’ve been talking about the Montessori education method and philosophy, and in our post on creating a Montessori Toddler Room, we touched on the Montessori concept of Sensitive Periods — the developmental stages in a child’s life.
From birth to about age six, Dr. Maria Montessori identified a crucial period in a child’s development that she called The Absorbent Mind, and she believed that what happens during this period lays the foundation for all future intellectual and psychological growth.
What is the Absorbent Mind?
The Absorbent Mind is a season of brain development in which the brain soaks up it’s environment and builds critical neural pathways and connections without any conscious effort on the child’s part.
Our brains were designed to be flexible during this period so that a child could adapt to the time, place and situations of the environment he was born into. The Absorbent Mind also allows children to conform more easily to changes in their environment and to be highly creative in the process. It’s a crucial mechanism for survival.
The period of the Absorbent Mind is broken down into two sub periods: the unconscious from birth to 3 and the conscious from 3 – 6 years. From birth to about three years, the child is unconsciously absorbing the sights, sounds and other sensations around him and is mostly reactive. From about 3-6 years, the child begins to explore his environment through more purposeful movements. During second season of The Absorbent Mind, the brain begins to make sense of the information it’s receiving by ordering and classifying experiences. The Absorbent Mind is still taking in information effortlessly, but in this later period, the child is more conscious of his environment and more purposeful in his interaction with it.
How to Maximize the Absorbent Mind Period
Meet physical needs. Offer good nutrition and keep them hydrated (at least 1/2 their body weight in ounces of water everyday and more if they’re sweating). Provide a safe environment with basic structure (routine for waking up, routine for going to bed, routines for transitioning and for mealtimes).
Offer a rich environment to explore! We can choose things in our child’s environment that reflect our culture and beliefs. We can also intentionally stimulate all the major senses, and choose materials designed to help our little person classify and order information.
- Play a variety of music in our home and in the car
- Talk to our child throughout the day
- Read poems and stories to the child
- Offer toys with different colors and textures
- Offer construction and imagination toys
- Use essential oils to stimulate the sense of smell
- Offer low mirrors and artwork at their eye level
- Introduce them to different food flavors and textures
Offer a wide range of experiences! New experiences build new neural pathways and brain connections.
- Go to the park and explore nature
- Go to the beach
- Take regular trips to the library
- Listen to a concert
- Explore a wildlife preserve
- Glue macaroni to paper or cardboard
- Cook with them
- Teach them basic manners and practice together
- Watch a puppet show
Offer long periods of independent play and exploration. The art of stimulating a child during the Absorbent Mind period is knowing when to intervene and when to back off. For starters, we can set up an environment with safe and interesting materials for them to explore and then teach them how to interact with those things. After that, we have to let them direct their own play, intervening only when they need our help.
Kids ages three and up can typically play for extended periods of time (2 – 3 hours) without intervention if they’ve been given the right environment.
Things to Avoid in This Period
Because the Absorbent Mind is soaking up its environment like a sponge, we have to be intentional about keeping things positive to the best of our ability. If you know you have a tendency to be moody and irritable, be intentional about fixing it. Our little ones need to experience stable, cheerful adults.
If older siblings are prone to arguing, talk to them about how it can negatively affect the littlest people in the house, and help them work out differences in peaceful and honoring ways.
To the best of our ability, little ones should not be exposed to anger, discord and tension. When they misbehave (and let’s face it, this age group can be pretty frustrating as they learn how to make good choices), we’ve got to keep anger out of the correction process. Remember, what is common sense to us is new information to them. We have to be patient and calm.
Tune in today at 10:00AM to learn more about Montessori – the fastest growing education method worldwide. Local listeners can go to 1220AM, 106.9FM or 98.9FM. Out of towners can listen live streaming at the WSRQ Website or download a mobil app.