Montessori second plane child characteristics and development

Montessori Second Plane Child

So many changes take place as children grow! The first plane child and second plane child can be quite different! Let’s discuss some of the characteristics of the Montessori second plane child.

“Knowledge can be best given when there is eagerness to learn so this is the period when the seed of everything can be sown, the child’s mind being like a fertile field ready to receive what will germinate into culture.”

Maria Montessori, To Educate the Human Potential

The planes of development are the stages of development that Dr. Montessori believed children pass through all the way to adolescence. These stages are as follows:

  • First plane: 0 to 6-years old
  • Second plane: 6 to 12-years old
  • Third plane: 12 to 18-years old
  • Fourth plane: 18 to 24-years old

Let’s explore the second plane of development in more detail!

A period of peaceful growing

During the first plane of development, children undergo rapid developmental and physical changes! Imagine the difference between a newborn infant and a baby of 9 months old! The changes in motor function, awareness of the world around them, and so much more!

The body and the mind are growing furiously! Dr. Montessori even illustrated this time as a period as a flame.

In comparison, the second plane can be seen as a time of rest, “peaceful growing, and “mental strength.” (1946 Lectures). The Montessori second plane child is calm and happy. Mentally, he is in a state of health, strength and assured stability.” (The Absorbent Mind, p. 18).

The second period, six to twelve, is a peaceful period of a singular regularity. This age is a time of rest. The child of six is different from the child of twelve.

Dr. Maria Montessori , 1946 Lectures

The second plane of development is a period of relative calm. Since this is a period of relative calm, second plane children have more energy to reason and learn.

Reasoning Mind

The Montessori second plane child is developing their reasoning mind. They have a voracious thirst for knowledge- they are eager to learn about the universe.

Children exert a great deal of energy into understanding the world around them– they wish to understand why things are happening.

Dr. Montessori states that during this time, there is a “considerable development of consciousness” taking place and “there is an unusual demand on the part of the child to know the reasons of things” (Montessori, To Educate the Human Potential p1).

Children will not only be eager to learn, but there will be a drive to understand why and how it is that things happen.

From What to Why?

First plane children are more likely to ask “what” questions. What is that? They will accept facts and knowledge as they are. First plane children absorb knowledge from their prepared environment. For example, a first plane child may ask “What is that?” whilst pointing to a fish.

On the other hand, a Montessori second plane children are inquisitive about how and why the world around them functions as it does. A second plane child may wonder, “Why does the fish need to be in water? Why is it that colour? Why did it die when the environment was so well prepared?”

Second plane children want to understand why and how things work. And not only in their specific environment, but more broadly! Why do countries exist? How are governments organised? Why do planets exist?

The questions being asked become more complicated as they seek to understand and process the world around them! First plane children are constructing themselves, but second plane children are seeking to understand the world more broadly.

From ordered to messy

During the first plane, the child’s mind is not ordered. They seek out this order in the environment. Parents may notice that their tidy first plane child, suddenly becomes less neat as a Montessori second plane child – particularly in the 9-12 half of the second plane.


This is a period where independence can really flourish. A Montessori second plane child should be given many opportunities for freedom and self-directed work.

This can be:

  • Having more of a say in the work that they do (via meetings with their guides, choosing projects, etc).
  • Planning and going on outings
  • More trust and freedom to leave the classroom independently

Outings and freedom

Not only is there a need for the second plane child to be exposed to a variety of subjects, but they should also have access to different experiences and environments.

Children should have a chance to plan and go on excursions outside of the classroom. They should not be restricted by the walls of the classroom. Children should not think that the guide and the classroom contain all of the answers to interesting questions and everything there is to know! Outings can be very important to learning about the world and how it works.

An example of an outing, can be planning a visit to a professional at work, such as a baker, a mechanic, a wood worker. Areas of culture can also be very interesting, such as museums or libraries. These are also excellent opportunities to practice practical life skills such as riding a bus or walking in the city, as well as grace and courtesy in a broader context with strangers.

Dr. Montessori writes that children at this age should not be limited only to the prepared environment of their classroom (Montessori, From Childhood to Adolescence).

Here you can see an image of an outing our son planned to visit the Louvre in Paris!

Morality and social justice

During the second plane, children are developing their sense of morality. Dr. Montessori writes, “In the field of morality, the child now stands in need of his own inner light.”

Children are building their own moral compasses and values. More than simply being told what is right or wrong, they wish to understand why something is right or wrong in order to develop their own, internal sense of justice. This time children are in the sensitive period for fairness and justice.

At this age, children are building their own moral compass and sense of values. They may wonder: Is this actually fair? Ultimately, second plane children are developing their sense of self.

When we speak of first plane children, we often discuss the importance of independence in order to carry out physical tasks. “I can do it myself!”

A second plane child is busy with developing their own moral compasses and values. Instead, they say, “I can decide and think for myself.”

However, these decisions must be explored with and guided by a trusted adult, as the child is not fully developed yet. For example, when a 7-year old child decides that they will not wear a coat in winter. Even though they lay out their case and reasons why, it is not appropriate to not wear a coat in winter. So the adult must explore, redirect, and guide the child’s reasoning (perhaps through practical life explorations or an explanation of the adult’s reasoning and concerns about the child’s health) to an appropriate outcome regarding the child’s choice.

Practical Life

Practical life in this stage is also related to this awareness of being part of a community and sense of morality. During this age, repetitive practical life activities can no longer satisfy the child. Instead, they seek out work that contributes to their community and environment. The work should serve a purpose.

Examples can include:

  • Taking care of the school/home
  • Cooking for others
  • Gardening
  • Building something
  • Helping to fix something in the home/school
  • Sewing a broken object
  • Donating items to a charity or refugee center

The goal of practical life work is no longer to develop movement but rather to contribute to society.

Imagination and abstraction

The use of the imagination is important, as well. Second plane children can imagine concepts that they cannot take in through their senses. Compare this to first plane children, who learn by using their senses and through interaction with their environment.

Their learning becomes more abstract in the classroom.  The children gain mastery over materials and begin to work in pencil and paper in abstraction more often. Knowing they can always return to the materials from jaunts into abstraction produces academic confidence. Research work becomes a favorite task in the second plane. 

Children should use their imagination in order to study and understand the universe. They engage their imaginations and creative problem finding and solving in big picture thinking. This is the concept behind the elementary level’s cross-curricular Cosmic Curriculum. The concrete lessons and materials support the child’s abstract quest for their cosmic task and roles in their larger communities and lives.


Dr. Montessori states that “at six years of age all items of culture are received enthusiastically, and later these seeds will expand and grow. If asked how many seeds may be sown, my answer is: ‘As many as possible!’.” During the second plane, children should be offered a variety of subjects and materials to learn from.

“The child should love everything that he learns, for his mental and emotional growths are linked. Whatever is presented to him must be made beautiful and clear, striking his imagination. Once this love has been kindled, all problems confronting the educationalist will disappear.”

Social and group work

Children of this age are also more social than in the first plane. They are now able to truly play together, including cooperative games. They are likely to develop social circle and begin to have closer friendships.

Mutually exclusive best friends, clubs, and cliques develop during this time. This practice is developmentally appropriate, but sometimes must be guided by an adult regarding children’s feelings and club exclusivity. Children are exploring deep connections with peers and so hurt feelings and tiffs occur often between friends. As these arise, it is important for the adult to talk through the feelings with the children involved in an objective manner, acting as an emotional intelligence guide. 

For example, often one best friend says they will not be best friends with the other child one day on the playground. When this happens, it is imperative that the adult understand, between the children these feelings are fleeting. Children move through emotions and social explorations like this quickly. Unlike adults, they don’t hold grudges. It is important, except for in circumstances of bullying, that adults listen, support the children, and stay objective. They must not personally absorb the hurt feelings of their own child, intervene with other adults, and rather let the children work out their differences together and grow emotionally. 

Dr. Montessori explains that second plane children have a desire to participate in organized activity. Social interaction is not enough. In addition to this, they may be interested in different types of clubs or activities, such as music or sports.

They are likely to participate in collaborative work together with other children, as well.


Second plane children are quite different from first plane children. In order to support them as they grow, we should understand their developmental needs.

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