Dr. Montessori believed that the brains of young children work in a different way from that of adults. She referred to the time from birth - 6 as the “Absorbent Mind.” During the period of the absorbent mind, young children are capable of absorbing immense amounts of information about the environment through their senses. A child’s mind acts like a sponge, soaking up information.
During the period of the absorbent mind, the child passes through a succession of well-defined stages or epochs, which are defined as the “Sensitive Periods.” A sensitive period may be compared to a ray of interest – like a searchlight coming from the child’s mind – which lights up certain things in the world around them with a peculiar vividness and fascination. While it is there, it enables them to absorb those things with an astonishing ease and power. But a sensitive period is a transitory phenomenon, lasting just long enough for the child to establish certain acquisitions and skills. Then it passes – never to return – giving place to another, which in its turn is succeeded by the next, and so on.
The important thing is that no matter how absorbent the child’s mind may be, ultimately, it cannot absorb what is not there. Therefore, Montessori education endeavors to develop the “Prepared Environment” that helps make the fullest use of the absorbent mind of the child. In the Prepared Environment, the child is encouraged to explore Montessori Didactic Materials to meet the needs in each sensitive period at each developmental stage of the child. The Montessori environment is prepared in Practical Life, Sensorial, Language, Mathematics, Culture, and Science areas.