The spiritual embryo is the phase of development that starts right after a baby’s birth and continues to at least age 3. It is the beginning of the newborn’s life in a new, radical environment. It is unique only to humans because of the increased length time of child rearing to the child’s state of independence and autonomy when compared to other animals. In this phase a child learns to talk, communicate, to think and remember. To Montessori it reflected, as well, the poignancy and uniqueness of the human soul.
During this time frame, an infant is the most vulnerable to his or her environment. A baby absorbs and adapts to his time, place, region, and local norms & culture. Montessori noted that many people who left their birthplace later in life were often afflicted with an actual illness (homesickness). When the afflicted person was sent home to take the cure, the patient would get better almost immediately. Montessori felt that this homesickness was a residual effect of the spiritual embryo that absorbed his or her surroundings. (The Absorbent Mind)
Miss Child went on to explain this phenomena. She said that the difference between an adult and child was that “man was the procreator and the child was the creator.” A child would go to create his personality, intelligence, emotional makeup and character within his or her environment. It was emphasized that the most important aspect of education began at birth. Montessori believed that the first period of life was the most crucial. The creation of the body was physically finished. It only had to grow and be nurtured with food and exercise. However, the mind had to be built yet. Montessori believed that babies and young children’s minds had a delicate process to go through and this fragile balance should not be disturbed
I remember in Biology lab when my professor had a slide show of different animal embryos. We were to tell which embryo belonged to each respective animal. After several slides some observant person noted that all the embryos looked alike! Embryos show very little differentiation. This is true with the spiritual embryo as well. Most newborns look and act very similar, but through exposure to individual environments, each child has a defined personality, gift and purpose in life.
What can be done to help the child’s spiritual embryo grow and thrive?
1. Let the baby or child be with mom, dad and family and friends as much as possible-“love and affection can never ‘spoil’ a child” (Child, 73)
2. Don’t let your baby or child get bored, babies and small children like excitement and variety.
3. Have a peaceful environment. (Peaceful music, television, and family relationships- as much as possible)
4. Give your baby a change of scenery. (My babies loved little areas with different activities and things to see in the house.)
5. Get a snuggle or baby front or back pack so your baby can go around the house and garden with you.
6. Take your baby with you to the store, visiting friends, to the library, etc.
What you do during the first 3 years with your child helps build a foundation for future learning.
“The baby needs warm loving care and plenty of interest and amusement. If his education is well begun in this way and continued by loving teachers in a carefully prepared environment he will show the marvelous intellectual and spiritual powers of childhood.” (Child, 73)
The spiritual embryo is the potential for your child’s giftedness. It is an opportunity to love and nurture your child into the unique and talented person he or she was created to be.