What is “Developmentally Appropriate Practice”?

You probably have noticed that our classrooms have a lot of bustle and noise; that children are up doing things, talking, playing, and exploring. Such classroom environments differ from the old grade-school images of a teacher doing a lot of talking at a blackboard while children sit and listen quietly at their desks.

Research and experience tell us that to be effective with young children, teaching practices need to be “developmentally appropriate.” What this means is simply that educators need to think first about what young children are like and then create an environment and experiences that are in tune with children’s characteristics.

Early childhood, after all, is a time of life quite different from adulthood, and even from the later school years. Children 3-6 learn far better through direct interactive experiences than through just listening to someone talk. They learn extraordinary amounts through play and exploration. And the younger children are, the more what they learn needs to be relevant and interesting on the day they learn it, not just in the context of some future learning.

Based on such knowledge about what children of this age are like, we design our program to fit them. It works a lot better than trying to redesign children!

A developmentally appropriate program like ours is age-appropriate. But that’s not all. To make a program a good place for every child, we gear our classroom environments and activities to this community and the families involved. We’re eager to learn as much as we can about each child’s family, cultural background, past experience, and current circumstances. With this knowledge we work to create a program that fits the children and the families we serve.

Family Friendly Communication for Early Childhood Programs
National Education for the Education of Young Children
Deborah Diffily and Kathy Morrison, editors; 1996; pg. 3

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