Developmentally Appropriate Practice


Developmentally Appropriate or not has long been used by psychologists and early educators. In the early 1980's The National Association for the Education of Young Children needed to define this phrase because programs needed to provide developmentally appropriate activities, in order to become accredited. This description is based on what early childhood educators knew about young children, through child development, theory, research and practice. NAEYC took the lead in involving the field in considering what practices were developmentally appropriate. In 1987, a position statement was written on developmentally appropriate practice to cover children from birth to eight years old.

Developmentally Appropriate Practice is a theory in which the students are met at their level, helping children meet achievable and challenging goals. It is not just as simple as that but it is in a nut shell. Children come from all different backgrounds, cultures, developmental stages and ages. Children are provided activities and materials that are appropriate for each child and group of children that are challenging and stimulating. These activities and materials reach children's areas of development and help them grow cognitively, socially, physically and emotionally. They also meet the curriculum areas of math, science, language arts, music and art.

Developmentally Appropriate Practice requires a deep knowledge of how children grow and learn. It takes a keen eye to understand the needs of the children and how to challenge them and to understand that what makes it challenging is different for everyone. It takes experience and knowledge to be able to understand and make connections between why open-ended, hands-on activities are important to children and what they are learning from these activities. It takes knowledge and understanding of child development to provide a climate for children to explore through play. To be able to observe their play and help them extend it to make connections to everyday life and form valuable life skills. This is essential to Developmentally Appropriate Practice.

There are lots of commercial curriculum and books which can be purchased to enhance one's work with children, using Developmentally Appropriate Practice. A keen eye and standards that are also sensitive to children's growth, development, cultural backgrounds, likes and dislikes can be obtained just by observing the children. Figuring out the needs of the group and the individual child through observation, one can develop goals and objectives that are appropriate for all.