For many years, teachers, parents and child care providers saw how young children learn through play. Studies of child development play, reading, and writing show that young children learn differently from adults. Young children must be active while they learn. They must experience first hand and in very real ways how things work, how spoken words can be written, and how reading helps them function in the world. Structured learning activities such as paper and pencil tasks, workbook pages, drill, and sitting and listening for long periods of time do not work for young children.
The National Association for the Education of Young Children represents the early childhood profession. Their book on developmentally appropriate practice and accreditation criteria define quality programs for young children. Developmentally appropriate environments help children develop in all areas—physical, social, creative, emotional, and cognitive. No one area of development is more important than another in the early years of a child’s life. It is often not possible to separate children’s development in one area from another. For example, as a child masters a physical skill such as climbing, self-esteem grows. The new physical skill makes it possible for the child to learn more about the world and to interact with friends.
Children use problem solving to learn and perfect each new mental, social or physical skill. This integrated approach to learning is one of the hallmarks of a developmentally appropriate program.
Parents want a warm and loving person to care for their children. Research supports the importance of this relationship. Staff characteristics are the most important criteria for determining quality care. A trained provider will interact well with children because of her knowledge and expectations of behavior for that age group. A developmentally appropriate provider knows and works with each child as an individual. Individual children have their own...
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