“Peace is what every human being is craving, and it can be brought about by humanity, through the child.” − Maria Montessori, Education and Peace
Aren’t these words powerful?
They were delivered by Maria Montessori at the International Congress for Peace in Nice in 1937, and they truly make me believe that educating our children is the greatest mission we can ever serve.
Our children are the future of our world. They are going to be the leaders of tomorrow and are going to make choices that will directly impact future generations. Our role as adults is to guide them towards the right path.
How? Well, we have an answer.
Let us start from the beginning.
It all starts with understanding how the child’s mind functions. Maria Montessori was a scientist, and she formulated her approach to education only after years of accurate observation and a deep understanding of children. Nothing came out of a feeling or an intuition.
She noticed the child had a particular state of mind which she called: the Absorbent Mind.
The Absorbent Mind
“The Absorbent Mind which receives all, does not judge, does not refuse, does not react. It absorbs everything and incarnates it in the coming man.”
− Maria Montessori, The Absorbent Mind, p. 266
What is it about?
Behind these two words, is one of the most fascinating and important concepts in the early stage of childhood. It has been presented by Maria Montessori over a hundred years ago and is now supported by recent neuroscience studies.
- The Absorbent Mind is unique to children from 0 to 6 years old.
- This state of mind enables the child to learn everything unconsciously and effortlessly. He takes in everything from his environment in order to adapt to it: acquisition of language, movements, and cultural traits.
- A famous analogy made by Maria Montessori is that at this age, children have sponge-like brains. They are able to soak up vast amounts of information from their environment, whether it is positive or negative like a sponge would soak up clear or dirty water.
How to support the child during this period at home?
By giving our children qualitative inputs!
We should expose the child to rich and accurate language.
- Let’s be specific and not generic: Let us give the name of the actual flowers or birds.
- Let us name the situation: instead of saying “Come on, let’s take care of your boo boo”, let’s describe what happened: “Oh, I see, you fell down the low wall and you got a scrape on your knee”.
- Let us expose our children to books about botany or art, instead of a story about a bear dressed in a red jacket driving a car.
- Listen intently to our child’s stories without giving correction. Ask clarifying questions when they are finished.
- Make mealtimes rich with conversation.
- Take some time to learn about their interests. Do they love sharks? Do some research and introduce them to new vocabulary.
A child up to five or six years works to acquire coordinated movements. Our role is therefore to give our children the opportunity to move.
- Go out often even if the weather is not inviting.
- Let them roam freely without saying “be careful, it’s dangerous”, or “no, please come down, it’s wet and slippery” all the time. Of course, if it’s really dangerous, say something but in most cases, it’s our fear that speaks.
- Let them get wet and dirty. Is it annoying? Yes, it is! But it is not the child’s job to please us. They are just satisfying a need, so let’s encourage this.
- At home, you can build motor skill paths with cushions, chairs, blankets, balls, and whatever else you can think of.
As of 3, a child needs an extended social environment, not just his home. It is the perfect time to learn how to behave with others. How to say thank you, how to ask for help, how to introduce oneself…
We need to offer our children real experiences in the world. Home should never look like a classroom. Rich sensorial experiences can be incorporated into your everyday life.
- Get in the kitchen. There are infinite sensorial impressions when preparing food. There are so many textures, tastes, smells, and sounds! Give everything a name. Oh, that’s crispy! Do you want to smell the ginger? Do you hear the water boiling? Do you feel the velvety skin of this peach? Spend time in the kitchen focusing on how things feel, sound, look, and taste.
- Go outside. The options for sensory exploration in nature are countless, and they vary depending on the day. Utilize chances outside to explore contrast. Wet, dry, hot, and cold. Short sticks and long sticks. Light rocks, heavy rocks. Slick leaves and rough bark. Sticky sap or clear dew.
- Make art! Art offers endless opportunities to explore with colours, shapes, and textures. Find opportunities to create. Provide activities with primary colours to encourage even more exploration. Experiment with different mediums. Bring back pebbles, acorns, and leaves from your walk to incorporate them into your creations. Get your hands messy and play with finger paint.
- Listen to music! Expose your child to all kinds of music. Listen to the different sounds and talk about what you hear. Is the beat fast or slow? What emotions do you feel when you hear this music? How do you want to move? Can you clap to it?
This is the key to understand what our child knows and has absorbed. It gives us clues in what our child is interested and where we might need to adjust.
In fine: we have to make sure we do what we want our child to see.
To wrap up
Our goal as adults is to support children’s journey and help them follow their natural development, making sure not to hinder their paths with unnecessary obstacles which can cause delays or problems later in life. Examples of such obstacles are: too much help, disrespect, harshness and violence, being interrupted too much, obstacles to free movement, lack of basic needs which are love, safety, sense of belonging, and sense of self-esteem.
Montessori Educator 3-6 & workshops leader