Montessori’s Four Planes of Child Development

To have a deep understanding of how children think, learn & behave, we need to have a holistic understanding how children in certain age ranges develop. We’re not just talking about physical growth and maturation – we need to examine this from a holistic perspective, including the development of the child’s mind, body and spirit. Dr. Maria Montessori based her concepts of children development through the four planes, which we’ll explore below:

The First Plane: Birth To Age 6

At this stage, knows as “The Absorbent Mind”, children take in everything for their learning in their environment. The learning ability of the child is like the sponge that absorbs water, children explore their learning with all senses. From birth to three is a period of construction that has immense intensity, their senses and identities are less than the three to six years period. As Marry Ellen mentioned in the video of Unit 4, Stage of Development that for the first three years of human life it would take 60 years for adults to be able to accomplish what the infant has been through in this development process.

At about age of three children develop their physical, psychological and independence. Children also form the conscious mind. The three to six years period, the child now develops identity, sense of self and loves to independence on choosing activities or do things for himself or herself. The common sensitivities are movement, language, order, senses, small objects and socialization.

Children are now ready to use their language that they develop to communicate and socialize with their family and new friends. And this period in the Montessori classroom, we always see children choose their own sensorial work or work on practical life, for example, sponging work, pouring work, cleaning a table etc. After their achievement and repetition of practicing, they are so proud and confident to do and choose work for themselves.

The Second Plane: Ages 6 to 12

At this stage we call “Elementary years”. Children begin to build a new mind called “Reasoning Mind”. From, The Planes of Development, The Constructive Rhythm of Life demonstrated that “at age nine six to nine, about age of nine is a period of calmness and happiness marked by a state of health, strength and stability: mentally proficient and ready for cultural studies.” Children at this ages group have common sensitivities of forming abstraction, imagination, having sense of morality and justice, they like to focus on culture and interaction with their friends, they are now very independent. They also love learning new things. I have a 10 years old daughter. She is quite independent. She loves to make her own breakfast and lunch. She likes to read her favorite book, The Mystery of the Three Investigators before bed. She enjoys taking care of her garden and loves to have sleepovers with friends. She likes to design her houses and condos on the Roblox online game. She helps with loading dishes and folding laundry. It is such a transformation to see from change and develop from birth to ten. She is calmer than when she was four.

The Third Plane: Ages 12 to 18

The adolescence period has an immense of physical, emotional and hormonal growth. At the early adolescence, they now starting to realize their changes. At the age of fifteen, they form social independence, social justice, heroes and models, personal dignity and their sense of belonging. At about 15 to eighteen, they are more calm, they refine their moral compass while growing a stronger sense of responsibility and making their own choices.

I saw some of teenager practices driving, spending time with their friends and taking their responsibility on their own assignments. It is a such big change. Girls start having monthly cycle. They have to learn how to take care of themselves and good personal hygiene. As parents, we need to provide trust and understanding for our teenage children as we want them to be safe and protected while they are exploring the new stage and have more freedom of choices.

The Fourth Plane: Ages 18 to 24

This is the last plane for young adult. We also name this period “Maturity Period”. This is a time that young adults think about their contribution to the mission of humanity. They are also managing and figuring their paths, career and finances. They have the full independence of spirituality and morality. Their common sensitivities are they now have personal interests, responsibility, social independence, evaluation of social policy of their own.


All four planes of infancy, childhood, adolescence and maturity are the process of human life which Dr. Maria Montessori compared as the metamorphosis. The first two periods have fulfilled with environment learning that children need adults and society care and preparation for them to be able to grow and thrive. They depend on adult to help them to life at zero to six. At six to twelve, they become independent but still need good moral guidance and need to be surrounded by their family and friends in the community to help build their mental strength and stability. The third period, they are experiencing the change of physical body and mind. They are getting ready to become the adults.

For me, this final period brings to mind memories of moving out of my parent’s house to live in a dorm near my university for four years. Then, I  went to volunteer in a poverty area as a teacher in a hill tribe village in Thailand. After that, I decided to explore the new world, learn a new language, and see a new land by visiting America for a while and living in Canada after that. The last maturity period is fulfilled with life learning lessons and experiences that you are on your own like a young and strong independent beautiful butterfly ready to explore the world.