Stages of development

Through her intensive observations, Maria Montessori discovered that children go through different stages of development in order to build up their personality. Each stage has a special significance for the child's development and is in turn guided by special susceptibilities - Montessori speaks of "sensitive periods" - in which the child has a special receptivity for certain areas of learning, e.g. for the acquisition of language or the development of motor skills. These apply equally to children all over the world and are phases of optimal learning and development abilities in which the child achieves great developmental steps in a short time.

Montessori observed that during the first 18 years of life, the human being goes through three different stages of development[1]which can each be divided into sections of approx. 6 years:

  • Early childhood from 0 - 6 years, subdivided into the phases 0-3 and 3-6 years
  • Childhood from 6 - 12 years
  • Adolescence from 12 - 18 years old

Each of these stages is completely different from the previous or subsequent stage in terms of developmental needs and characteristics. So much so that Montessori even compared these changes to the metamorphosis of a caterpillar into a butterfly. Nevertheless, each stage prepares for the next. Montessori drew the consequence from this to design an appropriately prepared environment - adapted to the needs of the children in the respective stage and equipped with the corresponding developmental possibilities.

[1]  She observed a fourth stage from 18 - 24 years, a time of maturity, of the young adult. The period of university studies also falls into this phase. However, this stage of development is not further elaborated in her writings.