How the absorbent mind reflects capability in the infant

by

Montessori taught us of the absorbent mind.  

She helped us to see that a child, beginning at birth, has a tremendous capacity for processing things that is radically different from the reasoning mind of the adult.

She believed so strongly in the achievement of a human — that humans can invent things and build things and achieve great strides, but she believed equally in the achievement of the child, and this was because of their absorbent intelligence.

Up until the age of six, she saw that young children do not consciously filter everything they experience. They simply observe, absorb and learn, and to achieve this, their brains must be making language and motor connections that happen subconsciously.

This all seemed to her so momentous, and the achiever in that was not the adult, but the child.  

All children learn how to walk and how to talk, and not because someone taught them, but because they were watching the environment around them, captivated by us, these fascinating and bigger versions of themselves. They continue to be in awe of you and me. How could we ever return the esteem?  

Before a child learns how to walk, they learn how to engage their muscles and coordinate their body that gets them to a place where they can use their legs like the adults around them do. They use their hands, they scoot across the room, they find ways to pull up their little bodies to the table or the chair, and these precursors to walk are merely the child figuring it all out on their own — with only this raw potential, curiosity, and delight!

But there is a difference between the child who stumbles happily while learning how to walk and the child who is saddened by the stumble because the adult was fearful of the stumble first.  

Children need loving adults around them. We know what is safe and how to set limits, and they need for us to prepare that environment in which to be curious. They also need to feel connected to us — to allow them to stumble as they learn how to walk is not a lack of presence on part of the parent; rather, it’s a hyper-presence with the child and a keen acknowledgement of his capabilities. It’s the origin of a trusting relationship between the two of you.

Every child will learn how to walk, how to talk and how to zip up their coat. But how are they going to get there? Will the exploration be theirs to keep, or will it be met with an expectation that the world is scary and that they need us to lead the journey? Who will guide whom along the way?

Whenever out and about with your infant, change how he sees the world around him. Wear him in his carrier the other way, for example, and watch how he responds. To the young child, everything is new and bright, even if they’ve been there before. They enjoy a trip to the grocery store or even to a familiar park far longer than you are I ever could, because their curiosity never wanes. The world is so new, and we could only wish for this kind of enchantment.

His eyes will hold wide as he soaks in every voice, every color, and every smell, and this is how the child will show you his capabilities. This is how he will always surprise you, and this is the very foundation of the great absorbent mind.

The child has so much to show us.

Guidepost Montessori is a a global network of schools serving 3,500+ families with early education programs, including Emergency Care for Essential Workers (ECEW) during the COVID-19 crisis. Looking for more free content? Download Guidepost Parent from the App Store for personalized Montessori inspiration and activities.

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