Principles of Developmentally Appropriate Practice
Principles of Developmentally Appropriate Practice
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This material was collected and contributed by the The Jewish Education Center Of Cleveland.

Two terms often get intertwined, without careful thought to their separate meanings:

  • age-appropriate 

  • developmentally appropriate

When an activity is age-appropriate, it fits the intellectual abilities, skills, and interests of the learners. For example, a two year old does not have the ability and skills necessary to play a board game, whereas a five year old has basic social, intellectual, and conceptual skills to play easy ones. Developmentally appropriate practice is quite different.

The National Association for the Education of Young Children states that:
Developmentally appropriate practices result from the process of professionals making decisions about the well-being and education of children based on at least three important kinds of information or knowledge:

  1. What is known about child development and learning -- knowledge of age-related human characteristics that permits general predictions within an age range about what activities, materials, interactions, or experiences will be safe, healthy, interesting, achievable, and also challenging to children; 

  2. What is known about the strengths, interests, and needs of each individual child in the group to be able to adapt for and be responsive to inevitable individual variation; and  

  3. Knowledge of the social and cultural contexts in which children live to ensure that learning experiences are meaningful, relevant, and respectful for the participating children and their families. 

-A position statement of the National Asssociation for the Education of Young Children

Developmentally Appropriate Practice (fondly known as “DAP”), leads to a number of implications about learning also identified by NAEYC. These implications, which have informed the shaping of this curriculum, include:

  • Children learn best when their physical needs are met and they feel psychologically safe and secure.

  • Children construct knowledge.

  • Children learn through social interaction with adults and other children.

  • Children’s learning reflects a recurring cycle that begins in awareness and moves to exploration, to inquiry, and finally to utilization.

  • Children learn through play.

  • Children’s interests and “need to know” motivate learning.

  • Human development and learning are characterized by individual variation.

-Guidelines for Appropriate Curriculum Content and Assessment in Programs Serving Children Ages 3 Through 8, pages 5-8.

These DAP principles should inform the decisions they make on behalf of their students as they prepare and facilitate their learning.


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