Developmentally Appropriate Practice

By Vanessa Rasmussen, © 2004, All rights reserved.

Early childhood programs including child care centers, family child care homes, private and public preschools, kindergartens, and primary-grade schools are responsible for establishing and promoting standards of high-quality, professional practice.

In today's fast changing and ruthless society, the children need the ability to:

  • communicate properly, respect others and connect with them to work through differences of opinion, and perform well as members of a team;
  • evaluate circumstances, make rational decision, and resolve problems as they surface;
  • retrieve information through an assortment of methods, including spoken and written language, and astutely utilize intricate paraphernalia and technologies as they are developed; and
  • continue to discover innovative methodology, skills, and awareness as situations and requirements vary.

Developmentally appropriate practices result from the process of professionals making decisions about the well-being and education of children based on at least three important kinds of information or knowledge:

1. Knowledge of the activities, materials, interactions and experiences will be safe, healthy, interesting, attainable as well as challenging to a child of a particular age and mindset.
2. Knowledge of the strengths, weaknesses, interests and requirements of each child in the group so that he/she is able to adapt to the new environment.
3. Knowledge of the cultural, social and linguistic diversity of the children so that the learning experiences can be meaningful, relevant and respectful for the participating children and their families.

Developmentally appropriate practices are based on the developmental needs of the children they serve. There are two aspects: age-appropriateness and individual appropriateness. Developmentally appropriate practices should be designed for the age group being served, taking into consideration the specific needs and differences of each child, including culture and language. Experiences for children should be interesting and mentally challenging as well as active and enjoyable.

To encourage developmentally appropriate practices, the children's environment should be well organized, clearly defined and easily accessible. Furniture should be arranged to promote both small group interaction and group discussion. Children learn best when they manipulate real objects and learn through hands-on, direct experiences, this way they can construct their own knowledge and figure things out for themselves. Developmentally appropriate programs promote children's active exploration of the environment. As children grow, they develop and acquire new skills and experiences that facilitate learning.

Copyright 2001, 2004. All rights reserved. Any reproduction of this article in whole or in part without written or verbal permission is strictly prohibited. For information about reprinting this article, contact the copyright owner: Vanessa Rasmussen, Ph.D, Starting a Day Care Center,