Planes of Development, Our Guiding Light
Maria Montessori explains human development as a “series of rebirths” from birth through maturity, each rebirth a cocoon preparing the child for the next. Each series or plane is a sequence of six years. There are four planes of development–birth through six years, six through twelve years, twelve through eighteen years and eighteen through twenty four years. It is at this point that development reaches maturity.

Whole, prepared and multi-aged environments corresponding to planes of development, with the needed freedom of choice and work, facilitate the Montessori process. The individuals freedom to move, to choose and do—with independence and order—cannot be overemphasized. The child is impelled from within toward lessons appropriate and meaningful. As the child engages with his/her environment and socially with those around and immerses without interruption or intervention he nurtures and releases his potential. The child that emerges from this experience is satisfied and transformed. Children engage in lessons one on one at the primary levels and in small groups at the elementary levels. Emotional and social support is a key element of a Montessori education. Grace and Courtesy throughout the classroom is taught and expected. ie: please and thank you , excuse me or “can I help you”. The word “yes” is used a lot to questions asked of all of us. We endeavor to “fill each others’ buckets each day. Problem solving and “the peace rose” are consistent with learning activities in the classroom at all levels.

When the child had completed an absorbing bit of work, they appeared rested and deeply pleased. It almost seemed as if a road had opened to their souls that led to their latent powers, revealing the better part of themselves. They exhibited a great affability to everyone, put themselves out to help others and seemed full of good will. – Maria Montessori

Children learn what they live. They love to model and as they model, they construct their own personalities—incarnate—integrating and becoming themselves. When children grow in whole and operative environments, with responsibilities to care for their environments, in cooperative ways they develop as whole and cooperative individuals from within.

Each plane has it’s own unique and distinguishing characteristics, sensitive periods, human tendencies and needs. Development within each plane may not be uniform from one child to another. Readiness therefore varies from one individual to another.

The First Plane Of Development “Help Me To Help Myself”

The first plane of development, from birth to six years, is the period of the absorbent mind. It is an unconscious process absorbing the environment as a whole. This is the stage of concrete concept building. It is the sensorial plane.

Sensitive periods:

  • Order
  • Movement or refinement of gross motor skills
  • Language
  • Refinement of Senses
  • Sensitivity to small objects
  • Grace and courtesy or social behavior

Human Tendencies: Exploration, Adaptation, Movement, Freedom, Independence of Choice and Decisions, Love of Work and Repetition


  • Prepared and Responsive Environments (indoor and outdoor)
  • Activities supporting sensitive periods and tendencies to enable children to move through periods of absorption to periods of assimilation, acquisition and self-construction
  • Trained Director
  • Opportunity for uninterrupted cycles of work


  • Absorbent, Unconscious and Concrete
  • Need for physical independence

The Second Plane of Development “Help Me To Think For Myself”

Children six to twelve years of age enter the second plane of development. It is identified as the age of reason or the age of imagination–the intellectual phase. These children are reaching for an understanding of the physical, moral and spiritual order of the universe/cosmos. This is the stage of cosmic education. It is the intellectual plane.

Sensitive periods:

  • Cosmic Order
  • Moral Order
  • Analytical Thinking
  • Peer or Herding Association

Human Tendencies: Intellectual and abstract concepts, moral order, grand ideas and calculations, problem solving, group and social bonding, collaborative work, scientific investigation and solutions


  • Prepared and Responsive Environments (indoor and outdoor)
  • Activities supporting sensitive periods and tendencies to enable children to move through periods of absorption to periods of assimilation, acquisition and self-construction
  • Large scope for scientific experiments and investigation
  • Trained Directors
  • Moral Independence
  • Opportunity for uninterrupted cycles of work


  • Conscious and abstract
  • Analytical, intellectual and academic
  • The Social Child, the moral child


In conclusion, may it be said that the Montessori Method is a gift to humanity and to early childhood education. It is profound in presenting human development and education as  whole and coexistent. It is yet more profound in presenting human development as an evolving and unfolding process of sensitive periods, needs and tendencies. It is at it’s most profound in offering a methodology—environment and curriculum—as evolving out of the Child, and training it’s corresponding imperative and partner.

 How Can You Tell You Are Looking At A Good Montessori Program?


Dr. Montessori did not patent her name, so anyone can use the term Montessori. How do parents know that what they are getting is quality for their child?


– Sandra Girlato(Montessori teacher trainer)

“Making The Grade”

This website explains for parents how to look for Montessori Quality when they go to observe in a Montessori classroom.
Montessori Quality Assurance checklist. Take a look at the other tips and tricks for parents at this site while you are looking.