Oh the joy of welcoming a newborn. They are so tiny and squishy they make us want to scream. Newborns have the ability to make the most refined people produce unintelligible sounds of the goo-goo-ga-ga variety. While it is exciting to welcome a new member into your family, we would like for you to think twice (or more, if needed), before you switch to baby talk. In this article we will discuss the four stages of development (the absorbent mind, the reasoning mind, the social rebirth and adulthood) every human goes through before reaching adulthood with the aim to give more insight into the changes our youngest members of society go through and the development needs they have at each stage.
The Stages of Development
We believe that education should be an aid to life. And that the parents are the first and most important educators in a child’s life. Many of us wait until our children reach school age to start fretting about his or her education. And often, we want to blame the teacher if our child seems to lack any abilities and skills we hoped he or she would have by that age. It’s often around that time that parents either start labeling their child as gifted or start having concerns about any learning disabilities the child might have. We don’t claim that there are no gifted children out there or that learning disabilities are a modern fabrication by our society, however we feel that the majority of those labeled in this way are actually exhibiting normal traits associated with their particular stage of development. But because of the lack of knowledge about child development, parents tend to kickstart a self-fulfilling prophecy that is neither necessary nor useful. In fact, if we knew that the most important developments happen before the age of three, we wouldn’t wait until the child turns four to think about his or her education. We believe that if more people (parents, educators, policymakers and more) are aware of the distinct stages of development a child goes through on his or her way to adulthood, we as a society are better able to guide our youngest members on their way to adulthood.
Four stages of development
Dr. Maria Montessori used scientific observation to identify four distinct stages of development, each lasting about six years, and describe each stage’s unique characteristics. Based on her scientific observations, Montessori also understood that each human knows how to construct himself/herself naturally. This notion is not only useful in general, but specifically parents are able to relax a little. It is not up to us (or our children’s teachers) to construct a human being. He or she is born a full-fledged human being who needs our assistance during his or her journey in life. That’s all. It’s that simple and that complicated. So what are these distinct stages?
Stage 1: the absorbent mind (birth to 6 years)
When would you say a human exists? From conception? A few months into the pregnancy? Or when he or she is physically in this world. In our legal system, an unborn child is considered born (i.e. it has rights) when it’s necessary to protect its rights. From the moment of conception, the human being is being formed and its environment starts impacting him or her. The child takes in absolutely everything in his or her surroundings without filter, effortlessly. That’s what Dr. Maria Montessori called the absorbent mind. Up to the age of three, the child is creating unconsciously and is a spiritual embryo. The child constructs himself out of his sensory experiences and adapts to life where he is born. In that sense, the environment in which a child is born, literally shapes him.
He learns to control his intellect and his body: he learns to walk, use his hands, speak, and so forth in accordance with his environment. It is vital in this stage that the child receives as many sensory input as possible. Giving a child the opportunity to explore her surroundings, experiment with different materials and be involved in daily life, helps her successfully adapt to her environment. We, as parents, tend to want to be as efficient as possible with our time and keep our environment as clean as possible. However, we tend to forget that exploration and experiments can be messy. Between the ages of three and six, the spiritual embryo becomes the conscious worker. She is absorbing her surroundings constantly, with the aim to adapt and belong. It is important for us as adults to model the behaviors we wish to see in our child. This is a period of organization and ordering of the impressions she has received until now. She is actively making choices and the foundations laid before are strengthened, extended and refined.This stage of life is considered a crucial one, as many things that the child has internalized during these early years, will stay with her forever. For better or for worse.
Stage 2: the reasoning mind (6 to 12 years)
Although the rapid developments that happened during the first few years of life seem to slow down after age 6, there are still many interesting things happening to the child’s body and mind. During this stage of life physical and psychic changes occur. The baby teeth are replaced by permanent teeth. The child becomes stronger and his body leaner. It’s also when he starts developing social awareness. He’ll start developing a moral conscience. What’s fair or unfair? What’s the right thing to do? What’s the wrong thing to do?It’s also when they start to ask big questions in an attempt to understand phenomena. They have a vivid imagination. Helping a child understand the world around them is crucial. Give them the tools they need to understand a phenomenon they are interested in. Delve in together and you’ll learn new things too.This stage is usually happy and easy going.
Stage 3: the social rebirth (adolescence)
The teen years. We all go through them. We feel misunderstood as teens, but somehow as parents we aren’t able to understand what our teens are going through. The teen years are often compared to toddlerhood: tantrums, misbehavior and rebellion. In fact, Dr. Maria Montessori found that many of the same changes that occur in the toddler years also happen in the teen years. In this parallel plane of development, the child goes through a period of physical and emotional intensity and change. They feel vulnerable and experience self-doubt. This is when the child recreates himself as a person in society. So make sure you as a parent react with compassion and understanding and help them understand their place in society.
Stage 4: adulthood (24 years and up)
It’s often said that people only feel like a grown-up after they’ve reached the age of 25. Although you might feel silly saying that as an adult, you might be right. According to Dr. Maria Montessori, a child becomes an adult around the age of 24. Around the age of 18 the physical transformation is complete and the young adult knows what his contribution to society is (his cosmic task). The young adult chooses to study at a university or other learning institute and/or works to support himself. Around the age of 24, she’ll be a confident and self-sufficient adult.
The Montessori School is on a mission to ensure that our next generation consists of confident and self-sufficient adults. Want to be part of our movement? We would love to hear your thought! E-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org.