In a word, yes.
Research released this year from the University of California at Berkeley showed that a young child’s ability for abstract thinking is more flexible and less biased toward cause and effect when measured against adults.
For decades, research has shown that children’s brains are far more plastic than the minds of adults. The brain’s learning curve is accelerated at birth and begins to level off after age seven. This is why learning a new language or a musical instrument is so much easier when a child is young.
But what about abstract thinking? This new research from Berkeley shows that a child can also think more outside the box than an adult. Why is this important? When children are not limited by preconceived ideas of cause and effect, they are more apt to find creative solutions than adults with the same set of facts.
Imagine a dense set of woods, with a well-marked trail. How likely would an adult be to step off that trail and blaze a new path? Children, however, see only the woods, and they venture anywhere they’d like to go. And the more experiences children have to problem solve and find solutions, the more trails they create. Those same trails are then available in the future, particularly when those pathways are associated with the joy of discovery.
The Montessori preschool classroom is absolutely overflowing with opportunities to discover. And because it is the child, not the adult, who does the teaching, the pathways created are etched in the mind for future use. This is why the materials found in the Montessori classroom, created over 100 years ago, are still so popular with young children. Their timelessness is rooted in their appropriateness. The materials are really tools for a child to cut through an otherwise bewildering forest of information that makes up our world. And when the children complete their three-year cycle in the Montessori classroom, they have an inner map to take with them, to learn more easily wherever they go.
If you would like to watch a short video summary of the Berkeley research, you’ll find it at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bHQ0DemKcEA