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  • Writer's pictureMelinda Cropsey


“The spiritual embryo needs to be protected by an external environment that is warm with love...”1

-Maria Montessori

Dr. Montessori’s research suggests that she was adamant about nurturing what she called the “psychic life” of the child.  She referred to the child as a “spiritual embryo” and saw the birth of a child as being “when a spirit enclosed in flesh comes to live in the world.” 2  She felt it was the role of parents/caregivers/educators to “create a favorable environment” that would “encourage the flowering of a child’s natural gifts.” 3  In today’s terminology nurturing the “psychic life” would include attending to both the child’s physical and social-emotional needs.  

Over 100 years ago, Maria Montessori began her research with children described as being “from the lowest strata of society; they were tearful, frightened and shy, yet greedy, violent, possessive and destructive.”4  She found that “Gradually, as their psychic needs were fulfilled, they underwent such an extraordinary transformation that the press of the time wrote of “converted children.””5

While great advances have been made in meeting childrens’ physical needs, many children lack the emotional tools to mitigate stress.  Sadly, our increasingly fast-paced, high-pressured, overstimulating and stressful lifestyles are having a dramatically detrimental impact upon the psychic life of children across all “strata of society.” 

Maria Montessori’s lament, in The Secret of Childhood, that “Adults have little time to spend on children since they are busy with their own pressing duties… ” 6  ,might very well have been written today.  A recently released Gallup poll reported record levels of stress in the USA: 55% experience stress a lot of the day; 45% feel a lot of worry; 22% feel a lot of anger.7 Unfortunately children are not immune.  In fact they naturally absorb stress from those they love most.   Thankfully they absorb positive feelings with equal facility!

The good news is that a growing body of research suggests that helping children develop social-emotional skills early in life makes a big difference in their long-term health and well-being.  The sooner children begin to develop these skills the better. According to Linda Lantieri, author of Building Emotional Intelligence“Studies have shown that a child’s social and emotional functioning and behavior begin to stabilize around the age of eight, and can predict the state of their behavior and mental health later in life.”8

In subsequent Breadcrumbs Blogs, we will examine the primary goals of social-emotional learning (“SEL”). We will also explore a full range of ways to foster your child’s social-emotional growth.  But, for now, simply remember this: 

The key ingredient is LOVE!

What sets the Breadcrumbs BLOG and philosophy apart from most other SEL programs is that it starts by teaching children to see their hearts as a unique source of intelligence in their bodies.  By tapping into what Maria Montessori referred to as the “Intelligence of Love” children are best able to process and integrate all key social-emotional concepts: gratitude, empathy, appreciation, respect, compassion, cooperation, kindness, patience, forgiveness and peace.

Take a minute (or two... or three optimally!) today for yourself.  Close your eyes.  Place your hands on your heart.  Imagine that you’re in a place that’s very special to you. Consciously slow your breathing.  Take a long, slow deep breath “in”, as if you were drinking-in the smell of a beautiful flower.  Exhale slowly, imagining the breath shooting out of a small hole at the top of your head, pouring a shower of love down over your entire body. Continue breathing: “In like a flower, out like a shower… in like a flower, out like a shower…” 

Now, take another moment and share your love with a little one in your life.  Hold one another. Look into each other’s eyes. Breathe together. Be a loving presence.  Talk about the love you share and the joy it brings you! Celebrate the gift of this moment together and hold it dear throughout your day… and rest assured, your child will too!


1. Maria Montessori (1966). The Secret of Childhood, Ballantine Books, New York, p. 34

2. Ibid. p.29

3. Ibid. p.136

4. Mario Montessori (1966).  The Secret of Childhood - Preface, Ballantine Books, NY, p. ix

5. Ibid. p. Ix

6. Maria Montessori (1966). The Secret of Childhood, Ballantine Books, New York, p. 1

7. Gallup Poll Released April 25, 2019; Americans’ Stress, Worry and Anger Intensified in 2018.

8. Lantieri, Linda (2008). Building Emotional Intelligence, Sounds True, Boulder, CO. p. 16.

The Breadcrumbs BLOG is devoted to offering parents, caregivers and educators tools to help young children develop a strong social-emotional framework.  Each week we offer tips and suggestions, rooted in Montessori philosophy and backed by the latest research, to help young children recognize, cultivate and celebrate their “innate goodness” and realize their “highest potentialities”. 


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