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Guidelines for Developmentally Appropriate Practices

The context in which early childhood programs operate today is characterized by ongoing discussion between parents, teachers, and the research community about how best to teach young children and what sort of practice is most likely to contribute to their development and learning. Since the original NAEYC developmentally appropriate practice guidelines were published in 1987, a considerable number of studies have examined the topic.

Recent data shows that many teachers who say they believe in developmentally appropriate practice do not have developmentally appropriate classrooms. A recent study of kindergarten teachers found that more than half demonstrated conflicts between their philosophy of early childhood education and their classroom practices. Data also indicates that teachers who receive inservice training on developmentally appropriate practices via workshops, site visits, and journal reflections reported a greater tendency to use these practices in the classroom.

There is no singular formula for developmentally appropriate practice. Rather, teachers use these strategies to make day-to-day decisions based on the individual children, their families, and the social and cultural context.

Following are the five basic guidelines for developmentally appropriate practice:

Create a caring community of learners. Developmentally appropriate practices supports the development of relationships between adults and children, among children, among teachers, and between families and teachers.

Teach to enhance development and learning. Early childhood teachers strive to achieve a balance between guiding children’s learning and following their lead.

Construct appropriate curriculum. The content of early childhood curriculum includes the subject matter, social or cultural values, parents’ input, and the age and experience of the children.

Assess children's learning and development. Assessment of individual children’s development and learning is essential for planning and implementing appropriate curriculum.

Establish mutually beneficial relationships with families. Developmentally appropriate practices evolve from a deep knowledge of individual children and the context within which they develop and learn. The younger the child, the more necessary it is for care givers and teachers to acquire this knowledge through relationships with children’s families.

Developmentally appropriate practices will continue to receive close scrutiny--which is a plus--because the more we learn about teaching and learning in early childhood environments, the better our children will grow and prosper.

Additional Resources

Bredekamp, S., & Copple, C., eds. 1997. Developmentally appropriate practice in early childhood programs. Rev. ed. Washington, DC: NAEYC. #234/$8

Bredekamp, S. & Rosegrant, T., eds. 1992. Reaching Potentials: Appropriate Curriculum and Assessment for Young Children, Vol. 1. Washington, DC: NAEYC. #225/$7

Bredekamp, S. & Rosegrant, T., eds. 1995. Reaching Potentials: Appropriate Curriculum and Assessment for Young Children, Vol. 2. Washington, DC: NAEYC. #227/$8

Dunn, L. & Kontos, S. 1997. What Have We Learned about Developmentally Appropriate Practice?, Young Children, 52(5):4-13.