Child Development Stages: Montessori Planes of Development
Foundational to Maria Montessori’s theories of developmental psychology is her observation of Planes of Development. These stages provide great insight into the developmental milestones of any child. The holistic framework of development is comprised of:
The First Plane: Birth to Age 6 (Early Childhood/Infancy) “The Absorbent Mind”
The Second Plane: Ages 6–12 (Childhood) “Conscious Imagination”
The Third Plane: Ages 12–18 (Adolescence) “New Identity”
The Fourth Plane: Ages 18–24 (Maturity) “Maturity”
Montessori asserted that each plane begins with an intense period of construction (progression), followed by a period of consolidation (retrogression) in preparation for a new stage of development. For this reason, the planes of development are depicted as triangles along a continuum. Maria Montessori observed numerous characteristics and milestones in each plane of development.
Sensitive periods characterize each plane. Sensitive periods are the golden opportunities where, if permitted, the child’s internal drive will seek mastery of particular skills and knowledge. During this sensitive period, the child will learn particular skills more naturally than at any other time in their life.
The First Plane: Birth to Age 6 “The Absorbent Mind”
This creative period is characterized by a striving for physical and biological independence, construction of the individual. These children effortlessly absorb what their senses experience. Through age 3, this absorption is unconscious. The second half of the plane (age 3-6) absorption become conscious. Common sensitivities in this plane include:
Refinement of the senses
The Second Plane: Ages 6–12 “Conscious Imagination”
This development period is characterized by a craving for mental or intellectual independence. In the second plane, children begin to display the ability to reason and use abstract thinking. Your child begins to search for a sense of moral order, in addition to physical order. Children begin to take charge of their learning, based on their interests and desires. Common sensitivities in this plane include:
Abstraction and imagination
Morality and justice
The Third Plane: Ages 12–18 “New Identity”
This creative period is characterized by an effort to construct a social personality beyond childhood. These adolescents strive for social and economic independence and a sense of control of their life. During this often turbulent time, your child must receive proper nutrition and sleep, as well as time to process and reorient. Common sensitivities include:
Heroes and role models
Sense of belonging
The Fourth Plane: Ages 18–24 “Maturity”
This development period is characterized by spiritual, emotional, and moral independence. These mature individuals spend time thinking about their place in, contribution to society, and humanity. Indeed, an individual expresses themselves as a part of society. Common sensitivities included:
Evaluation of social policy
Applying the planes to your children
Leelanau Montessori recognizes that growth and change occur, though not always at a predictable or expected rate. Assessment, therefore, has many different facets in our Montessori environments. In Montessori, continual assessment is part of the essential functioning of an authentic classroom. Following the educational philosophy and understanding of child development that Dr. Montessori put forth, we expect each child to grow and change every year.
We also respect the plateaus which naturally occur due to countless factors in and beyond the school and home, and which are vital to growth. Montessorians refer to these plateaus as planes of development and recognize that each level has developmental markers and milestones that must be considered. Creating and maintaining developmentally appropriate learning environments is a hallmark of Montessori education. As a public Montessori school,
Leelanau Montessori works hard to help parents understand the natural fluctuations of child development. We recognize that growth and change occur, though not always at a predictable or expected rate. Assessment has many different facets in our Montessori environments and is different for each plane of development. Screening and assessment data is shared with parents during conferences, home visits, parent meetings, school communication folders, and upon parent request.
“Development is a series of rebirth” - Maria Montessori - The Absorbent Mind
For those unfamiliar with the groundbreaking work that Maria Montessori developed, this might seem complicated. Interest in this topic is rewarded over time with increased understanding. We encourage parents to ask questions and especially schedule a visit.