Explain to me the Planes of Development

You might have heard this phrase: Montessori Planes of Development OR someone saying : Children from the 1st plane do this or do that.

This plane is not one that flies in the air or helps you travel. Maria Montessori created this term meaning a phase of development. According to her, there are 4 planes of development and each plane has characteristics, I will talk briefly about each of them. Hopefully, at a later date I will be able to go deeper in explaining the first plane that we consider the basis of all hence, the most important.

« Each lasts a period of time, each has its own needs and mode of behaviour ». Maria Montessori, The Four planes of Development, AMI booklet.

It seems obvious, when one knows about the development of the child that these planes are influenced by the sensitive periods and the human tendencies. Indeed, those, guide the child in his behaviour and his interests influencing directly the different needs of the different phases of development, especially in the young child.

Montessori also talks about the planes of development as a “succession of new births”.

1st plane – from Birth until 6 years old

This plane is the one of Infancy and it is divided in 2 subplanes. It is a plane of remarkable changes.

First subplane – from birth to 3 years old

The first 3 years are extremely important and the child learns more in this 3 years than it will ever learn for the rest of her life. The child has her Absorbent Mind working at full speed but in a total unconscious way. She learns everything and absorbs everything from her environment through her senses: good or bad. Hence the importance of a prepared environment and adults as prepared as anything else. The child goes through Sensitive Periods, enhancing certain learning at specific moments.

open space for movement
A prepared environment for babies and young toddlers showing the importance of movement

The environment given to the newborn child who is helpless and starts from nothing yet has everything to learn, is very important, as important as the first embryonic life in the mother’s womb but in a different way. In utero, the child is making his body, out utero, the child works unconsciously on his mind and psychological life.

Spoken Language is remarkably developing and so is movement.

Mack and wagon
Learning how to walk !

From 3 to 6 years old, the Absorbent Mind and the Sensitive Periods are still very important, some of it still totally unconscious. However, the child can grow towards the 2nd plane being more and more conscious that she is learning. The child is a sensorial learner, she needs to socialize and also need to be independent to understand where she belongs in the world around her.

2nd plane – from 6 to 12 years old

« The child is calm and happy. Mentally, he is in a state of health, strength and assured stability. » Maria Montessori, The Absorbent Mind

There are still changes happening, the child keeps growing and looses her baby teeth. However, the child seems more stable and put more importance in understanding why things happen and work more with abstract concepts (which was not the case in the 1st plane where reality and pragmatism is what children live for).

Socialization becomes more and more important and the child thinks for herself and her group (friends, siblings…). A certain sense of Justice (right or wrong) appears to defend herself and the group she belongs to. This is a good explanation to these children from 6 years old  and up going to the teacher/adult “telling on other people”. They are not trying to be mean, they are trying to understand where the rules are and where right and wrong apply. If you read Maria Montessori, she has stories about it. 😉

3rd plane – from 12 to 18 years old

The third plane is the one for adolescence. This a period of transformation in a similar way to the first plane.

Subphase 1 (from 12 to 15 years old) Puberty

Subphase 2 (from 15 to 18 years old) Adolescence

« We can think of a man bearing a great burden, who still has love for his home, who is fond of philosophical exploration, of production and of creation. To my view he is not yet an adult man, he is an adolescent. » Maria Montessori, The Four planes of development, AMI booklet.

              The third plane is one for major changes, deep transformations physically, psychologically and of course emotionally. Personally, if we read more about what Montessori had to say about the 3rd plane we would change the way school works. 

Adolescents are seeking acceptance within a group, they still need protection but seek work that has a lot of meaning.

Certain schools in other countries offer programs that seem adapted to what adolescents need. Here is an example I have heard about : Hershey Montessori school.

4th plane – from 18 to 24 years old

The new adult chooses his own actions, he is not under the umbrella of older adults as much as he used to be. He makes decisions for himself, starts choosing a career, he finds his mission in life.

To help him to do that, he usually goes to university as he seeks education and cultural understanding.  This will also give him great lessons to know what is valuable.

He is now part of the society, with a more specific goal as he feels reponsible to the world around him.

« Culture and education have no bounds or limits ; now man is in a phase in which he must decide for himself how far he can proceed in the culture that belongs to the whole of humanity. No matter what he chooses, he must realize that culture never finishes. He should realize this fact at this stage, in order to keep up with evolving humanity, Education should continue through life. » Maria Montessori, The Four planes of development, AMI booklet

I also question myself if university fully prepares students/young adults to what is expected of them in the adult world. This is another question for another time.


I hope this can clarify, even if brief, what are the planes of development, according to Montessori.

One thought on “Explain to me the Planes of Development

  1. Pingback: How to choose books in a Montessori environment? – Chez Mahe Montessori Blog

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