Developmentally Appropriate Practices: Everything You Need to Know

This is a term utilized to describe the attitudes, tasks, and settings that have been tweaked to reflect a group of children’s ages, attributes, and developmental advancements. Not all kids develop at the same rate, so usually, there’s a range of skills that are considered developmentally appropriate for every age.

For example, kindergarteners should be able to count objects, walk upstairs, skip, and share things with other kids. First-graders start to develop the ability to see patterns in numbers and words, have the motor skills to hold a pencil and can respond better to social situations.

As children grow older, without a physical or learning disability, they’ll be expected to progress in physical and cognitive development, have more self-control, and be prepared to take on more responsibility. They’ll also be expected to be able to interact socially with peers and figure out how to comprehend more complex concepts. However, not all first-graders can write their names, even if they can hold a pencil and write letters. Therefore, developing lesson activities and plans that incorporate the different skill levels and learning styles of all students can be difficult in a traditional classroom environment.

Developmentally appropriate practice (also known as DAP) may mean something heavily different even among kids in the same classroom. In the best-case scenario, teachers can personalize the way they teach the same concept to every kid. The objective of using DAP techniques is to provide young children with an ideal learning environment.

Teachers need to consider three key areas when tailoring a developmentally appropriate curriculum. First, knowing what’s expected at each stage of a young kid’s development is crucial and informs decisions about best practices. Another important factor is knowing what’s appropriate for each individual child. Watching kids in play activities can give important insights into their abilities and progress. These observations play important roles in refining what and how to teach each kid as an individual. The NAEYC strongly recommends basing decisions about what’s developmentally appropriate for kids on their cultural and family backgrounds. Most curricula utilize a few guidelines to figure out developmentally appropriate practices. These include allowing kids to explore their environment and get hands-on experience in various learning activities with little direction or supervision.

There’re many fundamental principles of development that inform DAP. These include the domains of development, documentation/observations, seeing each kid as unique, and knowing the effect of early experiences and play has on the early years.

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