Maslow Developmental Stages And How To Use Them In Your Teaching

Have you heard of Maslow? The Maslow developmental stages are a great method to use when teaching your younger children in particular. Let’s see why they work so well.

Here are the Maslow Hierarchy needs explained.

Who Was Maslow?

Abraham Harold Maslow was an American psychologist who was best known for creating Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, a theory of psychological health predicated on fulfilling innate human needs in priority, culminating in self-actualization.

He was born on the 1st of April 1908 and died on the 8th of June 1970.

Maslow developmental stagesMaslow stressed the importance of focusing on the positive qualities in people, as opposed to treating them as a “bag of symptoms.”

Maslow is ranked as the tenth most cited psychologist of the 20th century.

Most psychologists before him had been concerned with the abnormal and the ill. He urged people to acknowledge their basic needs before addressing higher needs and ultimately self-actualization. He wanted to know what constituted positive mental health.

The ultimate goal of living is to attain personal growth and understanding. Only through constant self-improvement and self-understanding can an individual ever be truly happy. This informed his theory that a person enjoys “peak experiences”, high points in life when the individual is in harmony with himself and his surroundings.

He developed a chart of basic human needs, so let’s look at this in more detail as it pertains to teaching young children.

Maslow Developmental Stages

Here is the Maslow hierarchy needs explained in relation to teaching younger children. Let us take a look at the chart first.

Maslow developmental stages

These are the Maslow Developmental Stages with the bottom of the chart being the most important to start working on.

When working with children under the age of five you need to remember three important things:

  • They need to be working at the appropriate level
  • They need to be developing a strong foundation
  • Individual development needs to be nurtured

Start by educating the caregivers with newsletters containing lesson plan objectives, at home explorations and interesting tid bits of advice, like ‘did you know that dancing bare feet helps with brain development?’

Have research available to help people to understand why you do what you do in class.

In order for optimal learning to happen, a conducive learning environment needs to be made for the children, and if any of the five basic needs above are missing, you will have what you may think is a ‘problem child’ in your class. If any of the five needs above are missing it affects your learners in a negative way.

Physiological Needs

Let us start at the bottom. Physiological needs are the most basic needs and include water, food warmth, sleep, so as a teacher you need to consider the following:

Times Of Your Classes

If you have your classes too late in the day, you are asking for trouble. For instance, near dinner time your students may act out because they are tired and hungry. The same goes for just before lunch.

The ideal time to have a class for young students is actually early in the morning when they are fresh and they have just eaten breakfast.


Are the children getting enough water? Encourage the drinking of water, as sometimes they don’t even know that they are thirsty. For instance often I see children crying with no tears. This could be from dehydration.


Is your studio a comfortable temperature. In the middle of winter, children will not function well if they walk into a cold studio. The same goes if the studio is too hot.


If children are tired, or didn’t get enough sleep, they will also act out or be lethargic. Educate your parents that all these basic needs need to be met in order for their children to function at the best and to create optimum conditions where learning can take place.


Maslow developmental stagesAre you providing a clean, safe dance space with no open plugs or things to trip over. Even unsecured shelving units on the walls could be a potential hazard.

Children like routine, so remember to warn them if anything gets moved around in the studio, like the bars, as it is amazing what small changes can feel like to little ones.

Have rules in place for your classes, for example you could say no running, only dancing feet, or my things are for me to touch and not you.

Watch out for things like cheap musical instruments. For example those shaker sticks can end up breaking and there are a million beads all over the floor which will be another hazard you need to fix.

Keep a structured routine for little ones and don’t change things around too much. You may get bored, but believe me, they won’t.

Remain calm and regulated while teaching, and never use sarcasm on young children, as they don’t understand it. Remember at all times that your tone of voice and what you say matters to a young person, and can make a lasting impact on them.

“Grown-ups who use sarcasm with young children risk being misunderstood at best and creating lasting wounds at worst….When adults use sarcasm to say things they don’t mean and mean things that they don’t literally say, they lose an opportunity to communicate effectively and to build positive relationships with kids.”

Love And Belonging

Create a caring environment for your littlies. Remember all their names and say them often. Treat all the children equally, no matter how many needs they have that aren’t being met.

Remember that every behavior has a reason behind it, and it is your job to figure out what it is. Go to the chart above when in doubt, as almost always it will be one of those fundamentals not being met.

Provide movement that promotes social interaction like group activities. Teach them proper audience etiquette, like clapping for your friends when they do well or get something right.

Every human wants to feel loved and like they belong, so it is your job to make sure they feel comfortable.

Self Esteem

As a teacher, it is your job to help them to discover their self-worth in class. There are so many ways you can show love and respect for the children in your class, including:

  • using soft hands
  • listening to them
  • use kind words
  • avoid baby talk
  • show appreciation and make the thank yous meaningul
  • let them choose some things to do in class – involve them
  • work with them, for example if they are being wild, let them help you set up an obstacle course
  • set them up for success by not making things to difficult for them

Make sure you give your students praise and encouragement in class.

Examples of praise would be ‘wow, good job,’ or ‘you are an amazing dancer.’

Examples of encouragement would be ‘you did it, wow,’ or ‘this is hard for you but you are not giving up.’

Self Actualization

“Self-actualization” occurs when individuals reach a state of harmony and understanding because they are engaged in achieving their full potential.

This is all about meeting the realization of self-potential in the developing child in dance. These things include:

  • joy
  • participation
  • enthusiasm
  • creativity

If the child shows all the above qualities in class, then you know that you are doing a great job with that particular child.

Teachers would do well to remember the word VAKT. This stands for visual, auditory, kinestic and tactile, which every learning environment should include, as all children learn differently. If you can include all this in your teaching, you can reach each child in your class.

See, say, do and play when teaching. For example, for auditory learners say it like you want to see it, like ‘smooooooooth.’

Make sure that the curriculum you are teaching offers an achievable goal. If you have problems, it could be that you are teaching things that are to hard, or you are teaching in a tactile manner and the children in the class learn better visually.

So I am hoping that the maslow hierarchy needs explained above will help you with your little dancers. Using the Maslow developmental stages in your teaching can only help you to become a better teacher and mentor for the students in your care.

7 thoughts on “Maslow Developmental Stages And How To Use Them In Your Teaching”

  1. As you mentioned, teaching this topic to teachers of children will be really helpful. You have really explained all the five stages of development clearly and I am able to understand them easily.

    I agree that physiological needs are to be focused first because these are the basic needs to be satisfied and then Safety, Love And Belonging, Self Esteem and Self Actualization in hierarchy . Thank you for sharing this topic.

  2. All these developmental stages are very important for children and every parent should be informed if they have a child under the age of five. A psychologist like Masow has nicely explained here what stages these are. As a social worker, I can say that child psyhology is very interesting, and this text only comfirms that.

    • It is interesting to see how children develop and all the different studies that have been done. Thanks for your comment Bojana.

  3. Howzit Michel,

    Firstly, Love PE, what a beautiful place. I have a cousin that has a holiday home there. Spent a lot of my Summer Holidays as a youth there.

    Sorry, I digress…

    An interesting concept, applying “Maslows Hierarchy of Needs” to Dance. Not something I would have ever thought of when I was doing all those Management courses for work, but why not. It’s applied to ALL businesses and life in general.

    I really like the format it’s written in, very easy to read and the content is very relevant to the Topic.

  4. I’ve studied psychology at university, and many of our lecturers are using Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs as a guide for creating their lectures. I couldn’t agree more, that having a conducive learning environment is one of the most important things we need if we want to teach other people. Unfortunately, many lecturers out there didn’t pay attention to that. I will share this article with my colleagues at my alma mater, so they can pass it through to all the lecturers.

    Thank you for writing this article, Michel.

  5. I like the way you’ve explained the five stages of early development in a way I could understand clearly.  Physiological needs should be focused on because they’re basic needs that need to be satisfied. We all need the feelings of safety, love and belonging. It’s the basis of self esteem. Thanks for an amazing topic and breakdown.


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