What is Developmentally Appropriate Practice?

  • Developmentally appropriate practice requires both meeting children where they are – which means that teachers must get to know them well – and enabling them to reach goals that are both challenging and achievable.
  • All teaching practices should be appropriate to children’s age and developmental status, attuned to them as unique individuals, and responsive to the social and cultural contexts in which they live.
  • Developmentally appropriate practice does not mean making things easier for children.  Rather, it means ensuring that goals and experiences are suited to their leaning and development and challenging enough to promote their progress and interest.
  • Best practice is based on knowledge – not on assumptions – of how children learn and develop.  The research base yields major principles in human development and learning [included below]….Those principles, along with evidence about curriculum and teaching effectiveness, form a solid basis for decision-making in early care and education.

Principles of Child Development and Learning that Inform Practice

  1. All the domains of development and learning – physical, social and emotional, and cognitive – are important, and they are closely interrelated.  Children’s development and learning in one domain influence and are influenced by what takes place in other domains.
  2. Many aspects of children’s learning and development follow well documented sequences, with later abilities, skills and knowledge building on those already acquired.
  3. Development and learning proceed at varying rates from child to child, as well as at uneven rates across different areas of a child’s individual functioning.
  4. Development and learning result from a dynamic and continuous interaction of biological maturation and experience.
  5. Early experiences have profound effects, both cumulative and delayed, on a child’s development and learning; and optimal periods exist for certain types of development and learning to occur.
  6. Development proceeds toward greater complexity, self-regulation, and symbolic or representational capacities.
  7. Children develop best when they have secure, consistent relationships with responsive adults and opportunities for positive relationships with peers.
  8. Development and learning occur in and are influenced by multiple social and cultural contexts.
  9. Always mentally active in seeking to understand the world around them, children learn in a variety of ways; a wide range of teaching strategies and interactions are effective in supporting all these kinds of learning.
  10. Play is an important vehicle for developing self-regulation as well as for promoting language, cognition, and social competence.
  11. Development and learning advance when children are challenged to achieve at a level just beyond their current mastery, and also when they have many opportunities to practice newly acquired skills.
  12. Children’s experiences shape their motivation and approaches to learning, such as persistence, initiative, and flexibility; in turn, these dispositions and behaviors affect their learning and development.

Developmentally Appropriate Practice in Early Childhood Programs Serving Children from Birth through Age 8. Third Edition (2007) Copple and Bredekamp, editors