When the child becomes interested in an object, the teacher must not interrupt, because this activity obeys natural laws and has a cycle; and if it is touched, it disappears like a soap-bubble and all its beauty with it.– Maria Montessori, The Absorbent Mind
Recently, the daily email from Exchange EveryDay was about “Flow State” and we can all relate to when we get in the zone of focus, whether it be writing, balancing the checkbook, going for a run, there is this place we can get where we are fully immersed in the activity. Below is the excerpt from the email sent on June 30. As an accredited Montessori school, we strive to provide the environment where children can get fully immersed into their work. Adults can create spaces for their work environment to provide opportunities to get to the “Flow State”. As parents, we can design spaces or works to help our children get to that same place.
“Maria Montessori called this a state of “normalization.” As a medical doctor, she was thinking along the lines of “homeostasis” - or balanced well-being (when all internal and external systems are working in harmony). All living things seek out the experiences they need to accomplish this state (eating in response to hunger, etc.).
In the early years, the child is driven to accomplish specific activities that are required for optimal development (much like a seedling seeks out the sunlight). They repeat activities until their movements are more coordinated, they experiment with it/then relationships and explore properties of matter so they can create a framework of understanding for how their world works, and so on.
The more we create environments in which the child is able to satisfy these physiological drives, the more time they are able to spend in “flow” (normalizing) states. Play allows the child to create boundaries around practicing specific skill sets. Flow requires a match between challenge and ability that provides for growth. An example is volleying a balloon or tennis ball. If we play with a tennis champion, it is likely the game will be over very quickly. The same would be true if we played with a young child, but for opposite reasons. If we play with a person who’s abilities are similar to our own, we feel exhilaration as long as we are able to keep the balloon up in the air or the ball in play. For those few minutes, we are singularly focused on the activity. The world falls away. That is flow.
The more time children spend in flow, the more their physiological needs for development are being met, the calmer and happier they are, and the less likely disciplinary actions are needed.