The Absorbent Mind, According to Maria Montessori

Maria Montessori introduced the concept of "the absorbent mind" as a state of mind that allows children to acquire knowledge through their personal experiences and needs at each stage of development.
The Absorbent Mind, According to Maria Montessori

Last update: 28 June, 2021

The absorbent mind is an essential concept in the pedagogical method that physician and pedagogue Maria Montessori developed. Her theory tells us how education should always adapt to the developmental stages of childhood. In the following article, we’ll learn a little more about this term.

Maria Montessori’s research with children between the ages of 0 and 6 years old concluded that these youngsters learned almost instantly. She compared them to a sponge, since they unconsciously absorb all the information from the different stimuli that they encounter in their environment.

The absorbent mind of children, according to Montessori

Maria Montessori said that the most important thing for children’s learning was that they could live their own experiences according to their own rhythms and needs. These experiences will help children to acquire mental maturity.

The Absorbent Mind, According to Maria Montessori

So what was Montessori referring to with the term, “Absorbent mind”? It’s the state of mind of children that helps them assimilate all the experiences they have. And, at the same time, it allows them to then analyze these experiences and incorporate them into their learning. They do this unconsciously during the first three years of life, and then become consciously aware of it during the following three years.

The absorbent mind also helps children to lay the foundations for the development of their psychic and social identity. Maria Montessori established the childhood period as a decisive stage in a person’s development. For this reason, it’s important to provide children with a good education that encourages and offers them the necessary resources for learning and building their identity.

What’s the development of the absorbent mind like? Sensitive periods

Another thing that the teacher realized was that the mind didn’t absorb in the same way in all ages. Children focus their attention on the stimuli around them, depending on what they need for their growth and development. For this reason, children concentrate on or give attention to some things and not to others.

In this way, they acquire knowledge almost effortlessly and for pleasure, as they approach the things that interest them. These interests depend on each child’s stage of development and are usually temporary. This is why Montessori called them “sensitive periods.” However, sometimes these can overlap each other, and their intensity and duration can vary.

So, what are the sensitive periods?

The sensitive period of order (from 0 to 6 years)

In this period, especially in the first two years of life, children show a great interest in the classification and categorization of everything around them. Order facilitates this.

The sensitive period of movement (from 0 to 5-6 years)

In this phase, children are particularly interested in movement and moving around, even more so if they’ve already learned to walk.

The sensitive period of language (from 0 to 7 years)

Throughout this period, children are learning a wide range of vocabulary, without anyone teaching it to them. They acquire it autonomously based on experience with the stimuli of their environment.

The sensitive period of the senses (from 0 to 6 years old)

Throughout this stage, children develop their senses. From birth, children have active senses of hearing and sight, but as they grow up, they acquire a greater sensitivity. This then allows them to learn through taste, touch, and smell.

The Absorbent Mind, According to Maria Montessori

The sensitive period of small objects (from 1 to 6-7 years old)

During these ages, children have a special interest in small objects and show a greater need to pay attention to detail.

The sensitive period of social life (from life in the womb to 6 years old)

This refers to the need for children to relate to their peers, in addition to the process of acquiring the rules, which are important for good coexistence in society.

Regarding the absorbent mind…

As you’ve seen, the absorbent mind is a concept introduced by Maria Montessori to refer to the special mental capacity of children at certain ages. Children, depending on their age, have a different interest in the stimuli around them. Like their absorption capacity, their mind absorbs depending on the needs they have throughout their development.

For this reason, it’s important that the educational methods used with children not only promote the development of their intellectual capacities, but also encourage learning and are adapted to each sensitive period.

 



  • Poussin, C. (2017). Montessori explicado a los padres. Plataforma editorial: Barcelona.
  • Durante, V. y Fábregas, M. (1998). La formación de hábitos. Bases para un trabajo libre y organizado en el aula de educación infantil. Recuperado 23 de abril de 2018. Disponible en http://www.waece.org/biblioweb07/pdfs/d036.pdf.
  • Montessori, M., & Bofill, M. (1986). La mente absorbente del niño. México: Diana.