Developmentally Appropriate Practice (also known as DAP) is a teaching perspective in early childhood education where a teacher nurtures a child’s development (social, emotional, physical, and cognitive) based on the following:
The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) adopted this approach in 1987. NAEYC outlines five key areas of early learning practices for effective teaching, which include: creating a caring community of learners, teaching to enhance development and learning, planning curriculum to achieve important goals, assessing children’s development and learning, and establishing reciprocal relationships with families.
“Developmentally Appropriate Practice is informed by what we know from theory and literature about how children develop and learn.” – NAEYC (National Association for the Education of Young Children)
Knowing typical development and learning at different ages provides you with a benchmark that will help prepare you to make decisions on the environment, interactions, activities, and materials. This knowledge should be based on research. You could try building a PILES child development chart using this guide.
Observing children at play, their interactions with their peers and environment helps you learn each child’s interests, skills, and developmental progress. These observations are crucial in refining how and what to teach each child as an individual. Having this knowledge allows you to know each child’s individual skills, needs, strengths, abilities, challenges, and interests.
Each child has their own cultural and family background. Having this knowledge ensures that each experience is respectful and meaningful for each child and family.
There are many basic principles of development that inform DAP, which include: the domains of development, observations/documentation, seeing each child as unique, and knowing the impact of early experiences, relationships and play has on the early years. Here are the basic principles of development: