“The greatness of the human personality
begins at the hour of birth.” **
Maria Montessori recognised that the mind of a young child was significantly different to that of an adult. From the moment of birth a child is subjected to a multitude of sensorial impressions from the environment.
She talks of him having an “intelligence of an unconscious type”** which begins with this knowledge of his surroundings.
There is in the child an “intense and specialized sensitiveness in consequence of which the things about him awaken so much interest and so much enthusiasm that they become incorporated in his very existence.
The child absorbs these impressions not with his mind but with his life itself.”**
A very young child does not have a bank of memories from which to categorise and build his experiences. He simply absorbs knowledge directly into the very fabric of his mind, an unconscious psychological development that takes place through which the child can then relate all his subsequent external experiences.
This is why this first period in human development is so important. It is the foundation on which all else rests. The development of a human child is not restricted to that of instinctive behaviour, but includes the absorption of the social world.
At first the growing child has no sense of itself being apart from the world around it, slowly, however, it expands its knowledge and learns to perceive itself as a separate and distinct entity. The child has an innate ability to adapt to the social world in which it finds itself.
It is this ability to absorb its particular world that allows each child to adapt to the characteristics of its individual culture. Montessori realised that it was the influences that shaped a child’s mind at these early stages that either released him to develop in his full glory, or impeded him not only in childhood, but on into adulthood
“At no other age has the child greater need for intelligent help, and any obstacle that impedes his creative work will lessen the chance he has of achieving perfection.” **
“Impressions pour into us and we store them in our minds; but we ourselves remain apart from them as a vase keeps separate from the water it contains. Instead, the child undergoes a transformation. Impressions do not merely enter the mind; they form it. They incarnate themselves in him… We have named this type of mentality The Absorbent Mind.”
** All quotes are from The Absorbent Mind, written by Maria Montessori and first published in 1952.