DEVELOPMENTALLY APPROPRIATE PRACTICE in Early Childhood Programs.pdf
Developmentally Appropriate Practice in Early Childhood Programs: What It Is and Why It Matters
Early childhood is a crucial period in human development. It is when children acquire the foundations for their cognitive, social, emotional, physical, and linguistic skills. It is also when they develop their sense of identity, curiosity, creativity, and resilience. Therefore, it is essential that early childhood programs provide high-quality care and education that support children's optimal learning and development.
But what does high-quality care and education look like? How can educators and parents ensure that they are meeting the needs and interests of each child? How can they foster a positive and inclusive learning environment that respects the diversity of children and families?
One answer to these questions is developmentally appropriate practice (DAP). DAP is a framework for best practice in early childhood education that is based on research, professional experience, and ethical principles. It guides educators in making decisions about teaching and learning that are tailored to each child's age, stage, abilities, background, and preferences.
In this article, we will explore what DAP is, how it benefits children, and what are the core considerations and principles that inform DAP. We will also provide some examples of DAP in action and some tips for educators and parents to apply DAP in their own settings.
What is developmentally appropriate practice?
DAP is not a one-size-fits-all approach or a set of rules to follow. Rather, it is a way of thinking and acting that recognizes the complexity and uniqueness of each child and each situation. DAP requires educators to be intentional, reflective, responsive, and flexible in their practice.
According to the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), which has been promoting DAP since 1986, DAP means \"teaching in ways that match the way children develop and learn\" . This means that educators need to understand how children grow and change across different domains (cognitive, social, emotional, physical, linguistic) and how they learn through play, exploration, interaction, and inquiry.
But DAP also means \"teaching in ways that meet children where they are as individuals\" . This means that educators need to know each child's strengths, needs, interests, preferences, and background. They need to observe and assess children's progress regularly and use this information to plan appropriate learning experiences that challenge and support each child.
Finally, DAP means \"teaching in ways that are culturally responsive\" . This means that educators need to respect the diversity of children's cultures, languages, families, communities, and experiences. They need to create an inclusive environment that values each child's identity and perspective. They also need to collaborate with families as partners in their children's education.
How does developmentally appropriate practice benefit children?
DAP has many benefits for children's learning and development. Some of these benefits are:
DAP promotes children's holistic development. It addresses all aspects of children's growth and helps them develop skills and competencies across different domains.
DAP supports children's individual differences. It recognizes that children have different rates, styles, and paths of development and learning. It allows children to learn at their own pace and in their own way.
DAP fosters children's motivation and engagement. It builds on children's natural curiosity and interests. It provides meaningful and relevant learning experiences that capture children's attention and enthusiasm.
DAP enhances children's confidence and self-esteem. It respects children's choices and autonomy. It provides positive feedback and encouragement that acknowledge children's efforts and achievements.
DAP nurtures children's creativity and critical thinking. It encourages children to explore, experiment, question, and solve problems. It stimulates children's imagination and expression.
DAP strengthens children's social and emotional skills. It helps children develop positive relationships with peers and adults. It teaches children how to communicate, cooperate, empathize, and regulate their emotions.
Research has shown that DAP can have positive effects on children's academic outcomes as well as their well-being and happiness . Children who experience DAP are more likely to develop a love of learning, a sense of agency, and a readiness for future challenges.
The Core Considerations of Developmentally Appropriate Practice
Knowing about child development and learning
The first core consideration of DAP is knowing about child development and learning. This means having a solid understanding of the typical patterns of growth and change that occur in children from birth to age 8, as well as the factors that influence these patterns.
Child development is a complex and dynamic process that involves biological, psychological, social, cultural, and environmental factors. Children develop in an integrated way across different domains: cognitive, social, emotional, physical, and linguistic. These domains are interrelated and influence each other.
Child development is also influenced by individual differences among children, such as their temperament, personality, abilities, disabilities, learning styles, interests, preferences, and background. These differences affect how children respond to their environment and how they learn.
Child learning is an active and constructive process that involves the interaction of the child with the environment and other people. Children learn through play, exploration, discovery, experimentation, observation, imitation, interaction, inquiry, reflection, and feedback. Children learn best when they are motivated, engaged, challenged, supported, and respected.
Educators need to be familiar with the research on child development and learning and keep up to date with new findings and theories. They also need to be aware of the limitations of research and the need to apply it critically and contextually. Educators need to use their knowledge of child development and learning as a foundation for making decisions about teaching practices that are appropriate for each age group.
Knowing what is individually appropriate
The second core consideration of DAP is knowing what is individually appropriate. This means knowing each child as a unique person with his or her own strengths, needs, interests, preferences, background, and potential.
Educators need to observe and assess each child regularly using multiple sources of information (such as portfolios, checklists, anecdotal records) that capture the child's progress across different domains. They also need to communicate with the child and his or her family to learn more about the child's personality, culture, language, experiences, expectations, goals, values, beliefs, feelings, opinions,