This website uses affiliate links at no cost to you. Thank you.
October 05, 2022

Order in the Montessori Second Plane of Development

Lately, it seems like as I walk through my home you can see evidence of a huge shift that has slowly occurred lately - more of my children are entering or have entered the second plane of development. That's right, somehow, I have more bigs* than littles. It's a revelation that is hitting my baby-obsessed self really hard. But, it also means that I need to adjust my home and my parenting to meet the needs of the bigger children here in my home. 

And, why do I have to adjust? Because holy missing sense of order. Dr. Montessori identified the sensitive period for order in small children and it strengthens in toddlers and slowly fades as children get older. But, by age's gone. Gone. So suddenly, your child that used to put the toothpaste cap back on the container (maybe even several times so its just right) just leaves it right on the sink - probably with their toothbrush, hairbrush, and all their dirty clothes. 

What Happens to the Sensitive Period for Order? 

It's not that they don't know where something goes or how to put it away, they just don't have the special sensitivity to that order anymore. They are so busy ordering their own internal worlds - who am I in this larger world - that those details are no longer important. They don't care for order's sake. Their brains and bodies have other work to do. Their rebirth into the second plane leaves out the orderly detailed work in order to make room for other big work - like questions of morality, justice, and an explosion of imagination. 

Practically this means that often second plane children can be followed throughout the house by the small trail of mess they leave in their wake - the scraps of paper, the abandoned socks, the pencil that just falls where it falls. The neat little trays and happy little worker that repeats work just so is over. It also means that kids are much more flexible with things like their routines. They don't always need the same color cup, and actually might crave new and different experiences and work.

Does this mean children are absolutely incapable of maintaining an orderly and clean environment at home? Absolutely not! But it does mean we need to shift our own approach to our children and their environment. 

Tips for Helping Second Plane Kids Clean Up 

Two things that have been helpful for me as my children shift away from the sensitive period of order have been 1) how we approach order with our children and 2) how we set up the environment. 

Our Approach

We can't approach maintaining order from a strictly orderly approach anymore. They don't care if we show them 100 times how a tray might look and how to put it away. The routine, the movements, and sensorial impressions of cleaning are just not important. So, we have to approach it based on what is important to them - fairness, equality, and social relationships. We have to make talk to our kids about it, let them know their role in maintaining the home, help explore why that's important and what they can do to help. 

It's not perfect, and things aren't going to be solved with one chat about how we all need to work together. But, it's an ongoing and new part of your relationship - talking about the social expectations of living in the community, working together, finding a valuable role for them, and holding boundaries when they need it. 

In short - they need you to be more explicit. "I need you to clean up your work because it isn't fair that you make a giant mess and I'm left with cleaning it all up." or "We all contribute to running our house, it's your job to put your toys away when you're done using them, and it's my job to..." 

The Environment

I've found that little neat trays of work aren't always going to cut it with second plane kids. They aren't going to maintain that order, especially with toys. So we've moved to easier methods of getting things picked up and put away - baskets. Where in the second plane I might have used a tray to separate different kinds of blocks from one another, in the second plane they all go in one basket. In the first plane, I might have had each type of sewing work on its own tray all ready to go. Now, in the second plane, all the materials go in one basket and they can find what they need. 

Yes, it takes them a bit more effort to find things - but that's something they are capable of at this age. They can gather the materials they need then dump them back into the place they go. But, the place they go needs to be really obvious. We need to help them by labeling, or explaining the order. They aren't going to absorb it by watching or finding it over and over in one spot like they would have in their younger years. 

We have also cut back to essential materials - have conversations about what they want out and what they need. Other things have to go. Keep order clear and keep spaces minimal. 

*Gus is just a couple months shy of his 6th birthday so he is in that grey area in between second and first plane. Nora is solidly second plane. And Henry has a foot in the second and third! 


Support me


Anonymous said…
Excellent post, it's certainly something I need to start considering in my home