Human Needs & Tendencies


“The child’s nature is to aim directly and energetically at functional independence. Development takes the form of a drive toward an ever-greater independence. It is like an arrow released from the bow, which flies straight, swift and sure…While he is developing, he perfects himself and overcomes every obstacle that he finds in his path“

- Maria Montessori

As a Montessori school, our goal is for education to be an aid to life. In order to do this, we must foster our children's Human Tendencies. Human Tendencies are universal characteristics of all people across all cultures. They are characteristic to every child and allows us to meet our physical needs (food, shelter, clothing, defence) and spiritual needs (love, beauty, intellectual needs, religion).

It is essential to understand that the Human Tendencies are not abilities we are born with, but potentials to be developed. The degree to which we support the unfolding of these human tendencies will directly determine how an individual can make full use of these tendencies for the rest of his/her life. The more we as adults understand about Human Tendencies the more we can help our children succeed - not only today, but also in their adult lives. Through meticulous observation of children, Dr. Maria Montessori highlighted the following Human Tendencies which you can read about below.

The Human Tendencies

The Human Tendencies

Exploration is the first step of adaptation: the drive to come out, meet and learn our environment. Children are continually exploring with their senses. New-born babies are soaking in the sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and textures of everything around them. As they gain motor control, these explorations become more and more active. Obeying this tendency is essential to gaining a basic sense of security in the environment and helps in the fulfilment of needs.


The next step after exploration is orientation: the process of making sense of the acquired knowledge, the need to orient ourselves and finding our place in the environment. This is a basic need i.e to know where we are in relation to our surroundings; how do we fit in and contribute. When children explore, they want to know where they can go and how to get back. From these basic orientation skills, children learn to navigate their way through life, both physically, mentally and socially.


The tendency for order helps understanding on a deeper level of knowledge and information gained through orientation and exploration and then it is put in order: classified, sorted, sequenced and categorized. All human activity is based upon this tendency to create orderly, meaningful patterns out of our varied experiences. Order brings security, children know what to expect and when to expect it. Without order there is chaos and confusion. Order is the base for every meaningful creation.


The tendency to communicate is the universal drive to connect with other humans and share our thoughts, emotions and experiences; whether in language, gesticulation, writing or artistic expression, we have a deep seated need to connect with others and share our world with them. Without communication we are unable to function in a social group. The child is born without speech but learns through an arduous effort of babbling how to speak, body language and the cultures and traditions of his people. Even before the child can speak he/she has a tendency for communication – a deep inner drive.


The tendency to work, to engage in purposeful activity comes naturally to all human beings. Work gives us a higher purpose, we find something that we are passionate about, something that we can do very well and that becomes a part of us, our identity. A Montessori classroom has endless opportunities for constructive activities and children love to do these activities. The tendency for work must be supported by the adults at home and in school or the child will eventually lose the drive for work, become will lethargic and will not be able to function independently.


Another word for repetition is practice and practice makes perfect. In the Montessori classroom we do not have a schedule and we let children repeat activities as often as they want to. When children are allowed to work on their choice of activities without adult interference they tend to repeat tasks over and over again and work towards mastery. This fulfils an inner, emotional need of the child. Maria Montessori teaches us that this repetition is complete only when the child decides that they are finished. Giving the child the freedom to repeat builds concentration and leads to exactness.


Exactness is a key characteristic of the tendency of work. Exactness is achieved through ongoing practice and repetition of an activity that eventually leads to fine tuning or perfecting a piece of work. Once human beings identify their speciality, they desire to be exact with the work that they do. When a person reaches this exactness through repetition, the effort becomes more efficient.


Here we see all of the tendencies come together. The child explores his environment and is drawn to a certain material or task. He manipulates the materials and repeats the work seeking order and precision. He controls his own error by noticing imperfections. He continues to work, striving for ‘perfection’. Children experience a deep sense of satisfaction and joy when they are allowed to work until they have achieved what they feel is perfection. This perfection comes out of the individual’s own understanding and criteria.


Abstraction is the culmination stage after acquiring the practical, hands-on knowledge with concrete objects. Then the linking to similar experiences and categorization based on its aspects takes place and then finally abstracting its concept and being able to recall or consider it without a link to the concrete. It allows us to generalize or predict. For its development, it is crucial that the child has sufficient experience in the environment.


Imagination is the ability to think, create, form and modify concepts within the mind that does not exist in reality. Imagination can be reached only after the abstraction has begun. Children can imagine things in their minds and then create them if they have the right tools and the freedom to express what they are visualizing. Imagination needs to self-expression and further construction of the self.

Mathematical Mind

The mathematical mind is the ability to judge, compare, identify similarities, measure, calculate and segregate. Maths is all around us; patterns in nature, seasons, natural calamities, business, etc. Even in simple tasks like crossing the street, filling up a glass of water or when the child starts to walk he/she is using their mathematic mind to calculate actions and outcomes. The child learns to use manipulations while exploring the environment and imagining several possibilities for work.

The harmonious functioning of all the tendencies are very important for holistic development. All the tendencies are interrelated and if one gets blocked, others are also inhibited. If the tendencies are allowed to manifest it follows that by the age of three years a child should be a physically independent being, toilet trained, able to dress, feed, speak clearly, use a good range of vocabulary, handle stairs and run well and will have an understanding of the group’s social habits and expectations, allowing one to judge causes and consequences of behaviour. Socially the child will be confident, able to work with peers, but also entertain herself, solving simple problems alone. By the age of six, the child will be able to plan the activities, be physically independent, responsible, able to follow instructions or verbally discuss problems, able to co-operate and work with others, maintain her dignity and be emotionally stable, able to reason and think with increasing abstraction and imagination. Here, we see the formation of ‘Man’.

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