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The First Plane of Development: Birth to Age 6 - Montessori Philosophy
The first six years of life are marked by tremendous physical and psychological growth, exploration and development. This is the period of infancy, an unconscious period of development. Physically, the body develops from head to toe. The child has a fragile immune system and is susceptible to illness.
Psychologically, the child is a concrete thinker, taking in everything around him/her. Montessori coined this plane as the time of the Absorbent Mind. She believed that more learning takes place at this stage of life than during any other. Children begin to acquire language, develop cognitive and motor skills, begin to imitate the adults around them, and develop expectations of the world around them.
The child during the first plane of development has many needs. Emotionally, he/she needs love and acceptance, respect and understanding, warmth and protection. The child also has a need for security, order, as much freedom and independence as he/she can handle, and social relationships.
Montessori believed that a prepared environment should be provided to allow the child to explore and experience purposeful activities. She believed that during this time, there should be two to three environments for the child. During the first two months, the child should be with his/her mother to build and strengthen the mother/child bond. After that, it is ideal that the child be taken care of in the home. However, this is not always a possibility and Montessori Infant/Toddler programs are specially prepared to meet the needs of these young children. From the age of 2 ½ or 3 until about 6, the child moves towards gaining independence, where it is not uncommon to hear a child wish to “do it myself."
It is also during this time that children undergo a series of sensitive periods or “windows of opportunity." This is a time of innate learning: developing language skills, the...