Planes of Development

Dr. Montessori based her observations of children on what she called the Planes of Development. Simply put, each stage or plane of a child’s development followed a six -year span. The first three years within that span were considered periods of construction and the second three years periods of consolidation. During the construction phase, the child gathers knowledge, followed by the consolidation phase, where a child uses the acquired knowledge to deepen and integrate understanding. At each plane of development, there are changes in the child’s physical, intellectual, social, emotional and spiritual development. Learning from one plane to the next is cyclical as each experience is met with a more sophisticated understanding on the part of the child. Consequently, a broadening of the formulation of the child’s character and learning potential occurs. Interestingly, the completion of these developmental phases is in adulthood at around 24 years. It is important to realize that each phase can vary depending on the unique personality of the individual person.

Each plane has characteristics that are uniquely observable:

  • transitions from home to school life
  • needs lots of nurturing
  • learns to become independent and to do things for themselves
  • learns courtesies of social life
  • enjoys learning practical tasks
  • likes to manipulate materials
  • is academically capable
  • changes physically and psychologically
  • possesses the power of imagination, abstract thought, reasoning and physical strength
  • desires independence outside of the family
  • needs to go out into the world and explore –
  • is eager for knowledge
  • is justice-minded – focus on fairness and caring for other living beings/things
  • begins to understand the concept of “freedom within limits”
  • begins the creation of the adult identity
  • progresses from caring about their immediate social circle to a concern for all humanity
  • needs to contribute to society and be recognized
  • desires to investigate their history
  • needs to go out into a larger environment and be a part of society
  • needs to do useful tasks and be recognized (e.g. paid) for them
  • is able to make own choices
  • realizes that learning never really ends; education continues throughout life
  • has a well-developed morality and responsibility