17 Key Guidelines For Developmentally Appropriate Practices In Early Childhood Education

The Developmentally Appropriate Practices in early childhood education, also called DAP, is a framework specifically designed for early childhood educators, since they are the ones who perform the role of carrying out DAPs to facilitate learning in children. Since the role is crucial, there are guidelines for developmentally appropriate practices educators need to follow, to enhance the standards of learning in children.

In this article:

  1. What is Developmentally Appropriate Practices (DAP) in early childhood education?
  2. What makes an effective early childhood educator?
  3. 17 guidelines for developmentally appropriate practices

What is Developmentally Appropriate Practices In Early Childhood Education?

In the field of early childhood care and education (ECCE), Developmentally Appropriate Practices, also called DAP, is nothing but the many ways of teaching children, that is coordinated with their developmental milestones and developmental domains.

DAP is an approach to teaching that is adopted by the teachers/educators, with intention. The approaches are carefully planned and grounded in the scientific understanding about developmental levels of children, and which approach will support learning for which level of development.

The core objective of DAP is to facilitate and raise children to their potential, in terms of their cognitive, physical, social and emotional development.

Developmentally Appropriate Practices in early childhood education enables children to engage in learning experiences that are tuned to their age, experiences and interests, and enable them to attain challenging but attainable goals.

Developmentally appropriate teaching and learning practices are crucial in ECCE for three fundamental reasons:

  1. To achieve optimal learning and holistic development of children
  2. Eliminate potential educational hazards of expecting children to perform beyond their developmental limits or capabilities
  3. To ensure education is focused not only on literacy skills, but also on other domains of development

Most important of all, the core objective of any type of ECCE is to focus primary on the 3 major domains of child development, namely physical, psycho-social and cognitive, which is discussed elaborately in this article.

What Makes an Effective Early Childhood Educator?

To start with, an effective early childhood educator is one who has a detailed understanding about what are the typical developmental milestones across each of the ages and stages of child development.

One of the most important attributes of an effective early childhood educator is that he/she is always aware of, and understands the fact, that there are individual differences among children.

It is this awareness of the educator that makes him/her take the efforts to know about her children individually, so that each child can build on his/her previously acquired knowledge, skills and interests, and unleash the full range of abilities.

Most of all, it is the learning, understanding and implementation of the guidelines for developmentally appropriate practices, which is truly what makes an effective early childhood educator!

17 Guidelines for Developmentally Appropriate Practices

The following are the 17 key guidelines for effective DAP:

1. Take Responsibility

Take responsibilities for the curriculum by adopting teaching methods that are geared for children’s development – both in general and in specific.

2. Acquire Skills

Acquire a broad bouquet of skills and strategies, and apply the one that suits best for a given situation to effectively promote each child’s learning and development. Skills include the ability to adjust and accommodate curriculum, activities and materials, to ensure full participation of all the children.

3. Gather Information

Gather information about each child on an on-basis through various ways and means, so as to understand him/her better and impart learning in a way that suits him/her best.

4. Appreciate Differences

Every child is unique. Therefore, recognise and respond to the needs of different levels of skills of children, their individuality, as well as differences in attributes in each of them.

5. Care & Nurture

Facilitate learning and enhance development in children by caring for them and nurturing them through various teaching methods. This is considered as one of the most important guidelines for developmentally appropriate practices.

6. Have a Lesson Plan

Learn to make lesson plans which ensures progress as regards learning across all the children.

7. Focus on the Behaviour

Focus on following the predictable sequence of behaviours which children demonstrate to attain specific concepts, skills and abilities; and build on their previous understanding and experiences.

8. Master the Teaching Approaches

Understand the characteristics, functions and values of each of the major teaching approaches to impart learning, and implement them after carefully deciding on which approach should be adopted given the children’s age, developmental stage, abilities and temperament.

9. Ensure Development of Major Domains

Plan for learning experiences that can be implemented effectively across the curriculum, so that children accomplish key goals across the 3 major domains of development.

10. Provide Rich Experiences

Arrange as many first hand meaningful experiences for children that are creatively and intellectually stimulating, and also provide opportunities for them to explore, investigate and learn, so that they can sustain involvement and engage themselves actively in the classroom.

11. Help Them Make Choices

Facilitate various activities to provide as many opportunities as possible, especially for those children who are yet to acquire the attributes or skills required to make meaningful choices; and with minimum assistance and guidance, help them learn to make choices on their own.

12. Make Learning Interactive

Provide interactions, experiences and materials to help children engage in play, so that they stretch their boundaries, break their (self-perceived) limitations, and confidently practice their newly acquired skills; so that they can enhance their imagination, language, interaction and self-regulation skills, among others.

13. Make Them Solution Oriented

Facilitate problem-centric activities and interactions to stimulate their inquisitiveness and analytical thinking, therefore expanding their opportunities to learn what works, what doesn’t and find solutions on their own.

14. Nourish Their Creativity

Present them with novel outdoor experiences and introduce them to stimulating ideas or hypothesis, so that can expand on their interests and creative abilities.

15. Accommodate Everyone

Adjust the complexity and challenges involved in activities to suit children’s level of skills and knowledge, such that the challenge should accommodate all the children to come together irrespective of its complexity, find solutions and acquire better competence and understating about how the world works around them and how to deal with them.

16. Help Them Reflect

Use various strategies and facilitate activities, including intensive interviews and conversations, so that it encourages them to reflect and revisit their thoughts, words and experiences, and help develop their conceptual understanding.

17. Use Scaffolding

Include scaffolding in a variety of contexts not only in the planning or learning experiences, but also in play, daily routines and outdoor activities. Scaffolding can take a variety of forms like giving a hint or a clue, modelling the skills or adapting the materials and activities.