Developmentally Practices

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Developmentally appropriate practice is based on knowledge about how children develop and learn, what is known about the needs of individual children in a particular group, and on knowledge of both the social and cultural contexts in which children live. (Bredekamp & Copple, 1997, pp. 8–9)

Developmentally appropriate teaching means that we approach children from where they are and not from where we think they ought to be.

Developmentally appropriate practice (DAP) suggests recognizing the importance of positive, supportive, and caring relationships (Gallagher, 2005). It is creating an inclusive and caring community that extends from the classroom to the community, and fostering respectful and collaborative relationships among peers. Teachers must understand the developmental needs and characteristics of each age group as well as of each individual child. Developmentally appropriate practice focuses on the child while taking into account gender, culture, disabilities, and other factors. DAP includes some intentional or explicit teaching according to the needs of the children, but it also suggests that children, are playful. “We want them [children] to interact with teachers and peers as they sing, listen to stories, and engage in creative art and play. As they do so they will learn vocabulary, acquire information, and learn” (Morrow, 2004). In DAP there is a balance between play and direct, thematic, and spontaneous instruction (Morrow, 2004).

The curriculum is adjusted to meet the child’s needs in developmentally appropriate practice; this includes cognitive, linguistic, physical, and social-emotional development and needs. Learning activities and goals match children’s development, and adequate time is provided for exploring during the various stages of learning. Teaching is not simply a matter of collecting materials and toys and selecting projects and activities for children; rather, it requires a sensitivity and understanding of the children,...
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