The Characteristics of the Child in the Second Plane of Development

After the age of six, children enter what Dr. Maria Montessori called “the second plane of development.”  This stage is marked by many changes in the children, both physically and psychologically.  What are the specific changes that these children undergo, and how does the Montessori Method change to accommodate these “new” children?

The physical changes usually begin with the loss of the baby teeth.  The child’s body, which was much rounder before, now begins to thin out, losing much of the “baby fat.”  The hair begins to darken and becomes less soft.  Dr. Montessori wrote, “When the small child begins to feel a loose tooth, it is a sign that the first period of childhood is over.”

Psychologically, the elementary age children still need to learn by doing.  However, their needs are now expanding beyond the classroom.  The children begin to exist in two sepaEate environments:  the home and the social setting.

The Elementary age children are also developing their imaginations and the ability to think abstractly.  They begin to question how and why things happen.  The abstract mind of this age child also begins to wrestle with moral questions and making judgments.  Dr. Montessori wrote, “…it is at this age that the concept of justice is born, simultaneously with the understanding of the relationship between one’s acts and the needs of others.”  It is also at this age that the child begins to work with others and is concerned with building a community.

These older children are eager to accept new challenges, both physically and mentally.  However, the challenges must have a purpose.  The children need to learn about the culture in which they live, but they do so from their environment rather than from the teacher.  The Montessori teacher serves as a link between the children and their culture.  The wide variety of cultural topics are now able to be learned, as the children grow to think abstractly, are able to learn details and then generalize to the whole, and negotiate working with others to achieve goals.