Developmentally Appropriate Practice
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Developmentally Appropriate Practice
Teachers and or caregivers working in the early childhood environment have a fiduciary responsibility to ensure that they assist the children to excel in their education and accomplish their goals. As a framework, developmentally appropriate practice has been based on extensive researches that are related to child development and learning as well as the knowledge base relating to educational effectiveness. The framework also outlines such practices that promote the prospect of optimal development and learning amongst young children.
Additionally, the early childhood education is a profession whose major responsibility is the promotion of quality education and care to young children. This is a responsibility whose achievement calls for a continued and regular revisiting of the validity, as well as the currency of the core positions and knowledge, particularly touching on the issues of practice. In the words of the National Association for the Education of Young Children, NAEYC, developmentally appropriate practice is, “…a framework of principles and guidelines for best practice in the care and education of young children, birth though age 8.” Caregivers and teachers in the early childhood setting must work hard to facilitate a successful development of the children through each of the following five domains; social/emotional development, health/physical wellbeing, general/cognition knowledge, communication/language, and approaches to learning. If teachers in the early childhood setting are going to assist children in this particular age group achieve the above standards or domains, they must ensure that they provide a nurturing and caring environment that can potentially encourage them to grow and learn inside the classroom.
This study will particularly seek to focus on the developmentally appropriate practices that are suitable for youngsters within the age group of 3-4 years, as this is the age at which most children are enrolled to various preschool institutions.
Social and Emotional Development Domain
Social and emotional development entails such skills that are considered necessary in fostering secure relationship and or attachment with between children and adults, maintenance of such healthy relationships, the regulation of individual emotions and behaviors as well as the development of a sense of personal identity that is reasonably healthy (Early Learning Guidelines, 2012). For preschoolers in the age group, 3-4 years, social emotional skills normally start to inhibit with the children’s tendency to link up with their peers in various play activities, starting to share as well as taking turns in the course of such plays and their ability to comfort their peers. In other words, social and emotional development is more focused on the various experiences of a child, the manner in which they express and manage their emotions alongside their individual ability to forge rewarding and positive relationships with other people. It is also important to note that this domain mainly encompasses both the inter- and intra-personal processes.
Furthermore, this domain also tends to be more explicit in the ability of a child to understand and identify their personal feelings, to read and understand with considerable accuracy the emotional states of other people, management of strong emotions and being able to express or vent such emotions in a constructive manner as well as regulation of individual behaviors. Teachers must ensure that they design an environment that encourages social interactions between kids, which might include provision of playtime for small groups of children, facilitation for cooperation and creation of an environment within which the disable children are merged the typically developing kids. In addition, preschool teachers must teach various specific skills including the use of words that express feelings, friendship skills, conflict resolution and problem solving. Most importantly, teachers must be sure to make put every effort to establish and grow a teacher-relationship that is positive.  Jones (2008) suggests that among the things that preschool teachers should do in order to enable children develop socially and emotionally is to for instance engage them in regular morning circles, where children sit at eye level or face to face with their peers. Such opportunities can also be used for direct instructions intended for a large group and that aid in the teaching of social skills as well as emotions. For instance, children could be made to sing songs within group friendship activities. Another important developmentally appropriate practice that teachers can use for preschoolers in this age is dramatic play, which can be used as a means to practice such newly learned social skills and emotions. In this regard, teachers should provide such items as dolls to be nurtured by kids, various dress-up clothes for female and male gender identification and clothes that represent different occupations.
Outdoor plays are also very important aspects of this domain that would require teachers to provide games and activities that are structured and that promote cooperation and turn taking. During these outdoor plays teachers should also encourage and or teach kids to help each other. Such activities are part of the Vygotsky cognitive development growth, where learning and social interactions are key ingredients in knowledge construction. Further, Gardner interpersonal intelligence is well entrenched in this particular context as development of nonverbal skills of communication has been incorporated as part of the appropriate practices, and where they are encouraged to use emotional expressions besides being shown how to accurately interpret such expressions as used by their peers, commonly referred to as bodily-kinesthetic intelligence, to communicate their feelings and emotions. This however does not isolate the development of their linguistic-verbal intelligence as they still can communicate with their peers. In conclusion, the children get to develop their visual-spatial intelligence as they are called upon to interpret the various presentations made by their peers in class.
Health and Physical Wellbeing Domain
According Head Start (2015) the health/physical wellbeing entails, “…use of body, muscle control, and appropriate nutrition, exercise, hygiene, and safety practices”. This domain emphasizes on the overall physical development of a child. Apparently, physical activity has tended to be ignored and neglected over the recent past with most educators turning a great deal of their attention to children’s cognitive development.  It is important for preschool teachers to bear it in their minds that at the age group 3-4 years, children are actively mastering skills including jumping, running as well as throwing.
Most importantly, children normally build and grow confidence in their various abilities as time goes by, and more so, when they are accorded the opportunity to pursue their individual interests as well as to practice and learn new skills. Preschoolers also tend to be very imaginative and social besides having a strong liking of games, riding tricycles, dancing as well as creation of obstacle courses (Essa, 2010).  As such, any developmentally appropriate practice that can be termed as suitable for this age group and in respect to this domain must include play due to the fact that it plays a vital role in enhancing their physical/health wellbeing. Appropriate plays for children under this environment can be categorized into either functional, that plays an active role in developing the sensorimotor skills of a child and or symbolic play, which is basically constructive play.
Functional play has been seen to help children build confidence in their physical skills and as such, teachers are expected to avail a safe environment and equipment, variable in terms of skills as well as one that is modifiable in terms of activities to ensure full participation of children, including those with special needs. As for symbolic play and in regard of children who are at the age of 3-4 years, provision of movement parade game that involves children marching around a classroom or even outside their classrooms as they also call out various objects that they can imitate such as leap, jump, twirl and hop among others. Additionally, preschool teachers might need to facilitate the involvement of children in a wide range of physical activity opportunities as well as ensuring that basic equipment is available. In this regard, teachers should provide various kinds of bean bags and balls, tricycles and riding toys, climbing equipment as well as push toys such as wagons, lawn mowers and doll buggies. Children engaged in such activities can be said to be in the Piaget preoperational stage, where symbolic thinking is almost entirely used in the expression of the full concept. In spite of the fact that their imagination could be strong, they still cannot be in a position to grasp various complex abstract thoughts.
Moreover, their actions are at this point in time still in the sensorimotor stage, 0-2 years, where they largely experience the world through actions and senses like smell, hearing, eating objects and grasping among others. Another important presence in this domain is the logical mathematics intelligence that is mainly displayed in the ability of the children to create different abstract ideas as they for instance, engage in dances, gaming and creation of the obstacle courses that they eventually move through. Additionally, linguistic-verbal intelligence is in this stage facilitated by the tendency of children to communicate with what they encounter. Lastly, children in this stage continually interact with each other as they seek to understand possible solutions to various problems, thereby further developing their interpersonal intelligence.
General and Cognition Knowledge Domain
Cognitive skills development in the context of preschoolers entails the progressive development of their learning skills including memory, attention, as well as thinking. These crucial skills enable a preschooler to effectively process sensory information and in the end learn to analyze, evaluate, remember, understand effect and causes, as well as make comparisons. In spite of the fact that cognitive knowledge skills are largely related to the genetical make-up of individual preschoolers, a great deal of them is acquired through learning. Wisconsin Model Early Learning Standards (2011) defines this domain as “Children learning to understand the world and focuses on intellectual development in exploration, discovery, and problem solving; mathematical thinking, scientific thinking,” (p.2). As such, teachers within a preschool setting are reasonably expected to particularly develop the cognitive skills of children through developmentally appropriate practices such as pointing out or highlighting such items that are important and interesting, before asking children to make comments based on their observations. For example, preschool teachers may facilitate a trip to a park where some questions such as ‘What animal was your favorite?, among others would be asked thereafter. Such is an activity will definitely aid the children’s ability to pay close attention to the environment that they get subjected to as well as enhance their ability to express their different thoughts.  Teachers can also use songs to enhance the memory as well as their ability to understand the calendar mathematics such as:
‘Thirty days hath September,
April, June, and November.
All the rest have thirty-one,
Excepting February alone,
And that has twenty-eight days clear,
And twenty-nine in each leap year.’
Further, cognition knowledge skills domain firmly focuses in logics, mathematics, social studies, reasoning and sciences. This is a move that is not only likely to facilitate the application of the mathematical knowledge already acquired by the children in a manner that is less intrusive, but also improve their memory. Additionally, preschool teachers can develop a kind of music that involves counting of say one to ten for children aged three years. The music can then be subsequently extended to involve digits between one and twenty, for the children aged four years. In order to ensure that scientific knowledge is equally being developed within the minds of the children, teachers can for instance set aside sometime for them to share their views on matters weather in a particular time, such as they came to school. It would be important to assess their knowledge on the various weather conditions including windy, rainy, and sunny among others. There are various Gardner intelligences represented in the activities mentioned above. For instance, the children make use of their linguistic-verbal intelligence to communicate their different findings effectively. There is also an element of logical-mathematical and musical intelligences, which are demonstrated in the stacking of the various shapes, and the aspect of children’s counting by singing respectively.
Language Development Domain
Often, language acquisition may appear deceptively easy. Preschoolers tend to learn their first language or mother tongue effortlessly and rapidly, starting from six months of age to about three years.  Language development takes place within a relationship setting, and this therefore implies that language and emotion development for children in this age bracket are to a larger extent intertwined (Louisiana, 2012). This domain focuses on the building of the ability for children to convey or communicate their thoughts and or feelings with the aim of being clearly understood and also be in a position to correctly interpret the feelings and thoughts coming from other people. Teachers must therefore encourage social interactions amongst preschoolers. This domain arguably depends upon social and emotional development because teachers have to establish mannerly and stable relationship with the preschoolers if the latter are going to sufficiently comfortable to engage in communication.
As part of the developmentally appropriate practice, teachers should be able to assess if the children are in a position to answer the various basic questions including, who, where and what. At this particular age, children are reasonably expected to be in a position to at least offer a description. For instance, a teacher may avail a large tray filled with small cars, plastic fruits, paintbrushes, animals, and trucks to the children. The students will then be blindfolded and asked to use their hands to select familiar objects as they develop various language concepts. This will also pave way for their learning of appropriate usage of descriptive words as they describe what they can feel without seeing. This is an activity that is likely to make the children knowledgeable about syllables, which are considered to be among the basics in phonological awareness. Often, students tend to be enthusiastic as their names get exclusively used through the activity. Additionally, it would be very vital for children to know the basics of sign language in the event that there is a child with hearing impairment. Gardner linguistic verbal intelligence is very much alive across the above activity, and so is the bodily-kinesthetic that comes along with clapping. There is also interpersonal intelligence that is evident in their verbal communication.
Approaches to Learning Domain
As per Head Start (2015), this domain can be defined as, “…observable behaviors that indicate ways children engage in social interactions and learning experiences.” This is one domain that solely depends on the inborn and or intrinsic qualities of a child as well as how such qualities influence their acquisition of knowledge and learning. Most importantly, every single child is unique besides each one of them learning in a unique way. As part of the developmentally appropriate practices under this environment, teachers have to formulate different activities capable of allowing them learn how different students tackle certain tasks. For instance, a teacher can provide a shoebox fitted with a sufficiently big hole, through which kids can pass their hands, and have two pinecones, two shells, and two rocks inside the box. The children will have a chance to explore, being asked to give suggestions in relation to what perceive of the shoebox. Students with disabilities should be offered help and guidance, probably with a chart of the three objects, and from which they will point the one, which best matches, their feeling. As such, children ably learn the various ways through which they can approach a certain task besides their cognitive capacity including paying attention and remembering rules and regulations being enhanced. Clearly, Gardner’s visual-spatial intelligence gets inhibited in the activity above as students make use of their basic knowledge in mathematics to formulate creative ideas. Further, with the passing of their hands through the hole on the shoebox, their bodily-kinesthetic intelligence is depicted.
These developmentally appropriate practices play a critical role in the successful development of a child through early childhood environment. Without the practices, it would be very impractical for teachers to assist all the students. As such, the guidelines and practices are an essentiality for teachers in order for them to effectively children with their individual differences. However, it is becoming increasingly important for teachers to ensure that they only incorporate such activities that are hugely related to the content area, which are critical for a child’s early childhood development. There are various developmental stages through children must undergo in the course of their early age. Normally, the developmental process of a child starts from infancy, toddler, becoming a Kindergartner as well as a preschooler, before joining the primary care system. Developmentally appropriate practice is a framework that was adopted in 1986 with the aim of promoting excellence within the early childhood education by way of provision of best practices. Effective learning of new materials in the context of children normally takes place through play. In addition, pedagogy is also a very important component in early childhood development, particularly in light of the fact that effective learning and teaching must be supported by multiple strategies.
Early Learning Guidelines. (2012). Retrieved March 20, 2016, from, In-line Citation: (“Early Learning Guidelines,” 2012)
Essa, E. L. (2010). Introduction to Early Childhood Education Annotated Student’s Edition (6th ed.).
United States: Delmar Cengage Learning. In-line Citation: (Essa, 2010)
Jones, N. (2008, May ). Grouping Children to Promote Social and Emotional Development.
Retrieved March 20, 2016, from, In-line Citation: (Jones, 2008)
Louisiana’s Birth to Five Early Learning & Development Standards. (2012). Retrieved March
20, 2016, from,—birth-to-five-standards.pdf?sfvrsn=7 In-line Citation: (“Louisiana’s Birth to Five Early Learning & Development Standards,” 2012)
Wisconsin Model Early Learning Standards. (2011, February ). Retrieved March 20, 2016, from, In-line Citation: (“Wisconsin Model Early Learning Standards,” 2011)

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