The Child’s Work

Dr. Montessori defined an Absorbent Mind as when a “child is effortless assimilating the sensorial stimuli of the environment”Among the revelations the child has brought us, there is one of fundamental importance, the phenomenon of normalisation through work.

What is the Absorbent Mind
“From birth through approximately age 6, the young child experiences a period of intense mental activity that allows her to “absorb” learning from her environment without conscious effort, naturally and spontaneously.”

A child is born without the ability to speak or to take care of himself but within the first three years of his life through the use of his senses, he gathers the information he needs to develop, to “create and construct” himself. He gathers naturally without thinking.

The Absorbent Mind & Sensitive Periods
“Impressions do not merely enter his mind, they form it, they incarnate themselves in him.” – The Absorbent Mind

Montessori broke the Absorbent Mind down into two phases: the unconscious from 0-3 years old, the conscious from 3-6 years old.

Unconscious & Conscious Phases
During the 0-3 year period, the child unknowingly gathers impressions from his environment, begins to develop the “self-concept” and life skills, such as independence.

Once he enters the latter period of development, the child is consciously taking in his environment, not with new impressions but seeking ways to give order to or to create a system for, those impressions gathered unconsciously during the prior period of development.

“But the child too is a worker and a producer. If he cannot take part in the adult’s work, he has his own, a great, important, difficult work indeed – the work of producing man… The child’s work belongs to another order and has a wholly different force from the work of the adult. Indeed one might say that the one is opposed to the other. The child’s work is done unconsciously, in abandonment to a mysterious spiritual energy, actively engaged in creation. It is indeed a creative work; it is perhaps the very spectacle of the creation of man, as symbolically outlined in the Bible.” (Dr. Maria Montessori, ‘The Secret of Childhood’, Orient Longman Limited, 200)

“Later on the children themselves will tend to become careless in the exact performance of their movements.  Their interest in developing the coordination of the muscles will begin to decline.  The mind of the child will press on, he will no longer have the same love that he had before.  His mind must move along a determined path which is independent both on his own will and that of his teacher.   Later on a sense of duty will make him persevere in doing through voluntary effort that which at a certain period he largely did through love, that is at a time when he had to create within himself new attitudes.” (Dr. Maria Montessori, ‘The Discovery of the Child’, Clio Press Ltd, 88)

“The child strives to assimilate his environment and from such efforts springs the deep-seated unity of his personality. This prolonged and gradual labour is a continual process through which the spirit enters into possession of its instrument. It must continually maintain its sovereignty by its own strength, lest movement give place to inertia or become uniform and mechanical. It must continually command, so that movement, removed henceforth from the guidance of a fixed instinct, shall not lose itself in chaos. Hence a creation that is always in process of realisation, an energy always freshly constructive, the unceasing labour of spiritual incarnation. Thus the human personality forms itself by itself, like the embryo, and the child becomes the creator of the man, the father of the man.” (Dr. Maria Montessori, ‘The Secret of Childhood’, Orient Longman Limited, 31)

“A child who has become master of his acts through long and repeated exercises, and who has been encouraged by the pleasant and interesting activities in which he has been engaged, is a child filled with health and joy and remarkable for his calmness and discipline.” (Dr. Maria Montessori, ‘The Discovery of the Child’, Clio Press Ltd, 92)

“… when the cycle is completed, the child detaches himself from his internal concentration; refreshed and satisfied, he experiences the higher social impulses, such as desiring to make confidences and to hold intimate communion with other souls.” (Dr. Maria Montessori, ‘The Advanced Montessori Method – I’, Clio Press Ltd, 76)

“The satisfaction which they find in their work has given them a grace and ease like that which comes from music.” (Dr. Maria Montessori, ‘The Discovery of the Child’, Clio Press Ltd, 87)

“The child of this age sets out to do a certain task, perhaps an absurd one to adult reasoning, but this matters not at all; he must carry out the activity to its conclusion.  There is a vital urge to completeness of action, and if the cycle of this urge is broken, it shows in deviations from normality and lack of purpose.  Much importance attaches now to this cycle of activity, which is an indirect preparation for future life.  All through life men prepare for the future indirectly, and it is remarked of those who have done something great that there has been a previous period of something worked for, not necessarily on the same line as the final work, but along some line there has been an intense effort which has given the necessary preparation of the spirit, and such effort must be fully expanded – the cycle must be completed.  Adults therefore should not interfere to stop any childish activity however absurd, so long as it is not too dangerous to life and limb! The child must carry out his cycle of activity.” (Dr. Maria Montessori, ‘Education for a New World’, Clio Press Ltd, 45)

“This means that it is not enough to set the child among objects in proportion to his size and strength; the adult who is to help him must have learned how to do so. If the adult, through a fatal misunderstanding, instead of helping the child to do things for himself, substitutes himself for the child, then that adult becomes the blindest and most powerful obstacle to the development of the child’s psychic life. In this misunderstanding, in the excessive competition between adult work and child work, lies the first great drama of the struggle between man and his work, and perhaps the origin of all the dramas and struggles of mankind.” (Dr. Maria Montessori, ‘The Secret of Childhood’, Orient Longman Limited, 208)

AMI teachers create learning environments that are hands-on, self-paced, collaborative, and joyful—everything that’s needed to create a lifelong, active learner. AMI Montessori Teacher Certification helps teachers nurture each child into a capable and connected individual, while moving all children forward.