Developmentally Appropriate Practice (DAP)
is important for you to know about because it the basis on which most preschools develop their programs.

Developmentally Appropriate Practice (DAP) is the measuring stick that is used to develop curricula, experiences and classroom environments to best address the learning needs of preschool children. DAP recognizes each stage of a child’s development and arranges lesson plans to best facilitate learning objectives.

DAP is important because it recognizes that children are learning all the time through every

  • physical,
  • emotional,
  • social, and
  • cognitive experience
  • recognized by the five senses.

    DAP is important for YOU to know about, so that you can understand

    • how programs create their lesson plans
    • how these lesson plans address the various areas of development
    • if your child’s needs are, in fact, being addressed in an
      appropriate manner and at an appropriate level

    and most importantly

    • how these lesson plans encompass exactly what your child is learning and doing now at home with you

    and therefore,

    • how your child can learn much more quickly, more appropriately, more individually, more creatively, more intuitively, more confidently, more concretely, and with more relevance at home


    • increasing their cognitive skills; developing their fine and gross motor abilities, enlarging their vocabulary, enriching their imagination, strengthening their social behaviors, and solidifying their emotional foundation.
    More specifically…

    DAP is individual teaching/facilitation for each child because each child is an individual.

    Individual teaching/facilitation means that an activity or setting and the expectations that follow meet the child’s learning needs based on their age and stage of development in each of the domain areas:

    • physical
    • social
    • emotional
    • cognitive     and
    • self-help skills

    Both age and developmental ability are taken into account because each child develops at his or her own pace unique only to him or to her.

    Just as importantly, a child’s interests are taken into account.
    With what activity de jour would your child continue on and would choose among all other activities?

    This is your child’s current area that of growth. It is therefore, very important that your child be allowed to have plenty of time and opportunity for the chosen activity.

    Though we talk about general milestones for specific ages, factors such as maturity, specific interests, as well as family backgrounds, will impact a child’s stage of development. (This would also take into account any learning, cognitive or physical impairments.)

    To illustrate, we can look at three different children at three years old and they will have three different levels of ability in each of the domain areas.

    • Child #1— very active and always moving but not very talkative.
    • Child #2— advanced linguistic skills and may even begin reading.
    • Child #3–more interested in sitting and painting and/or building and

    Are any of these three children “smarter” than the other?

    No. It’s just three different children with three different personalities, skills and interests. If we added more children to the group, we would see more differences.

    3 Areas You Need to Learn to Recognize in Your Preschooler:

    1. General developmental milestones for various ages.
    2. At what “stage” is your child in each of the domain areas?
    3. What are your child’s interests?

    This practice is recognized by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) and most preschools strive to meet these standards.

    What you will begin to notice as you become more comfortable with “ages and stages,” is that the very definition of Developmentally Appropriate Practice is incompatible to what Early Childhood Programs are able to deliver. Preschools and daycares are buildings…filled with classrooms…filled with bunches of children.

    Q:How does one receive individualized “lessons” when others are trying to meet the needs of still others?
    Q:How is one able to pursue one’s outside fascination with bugs and rocks when one is inside a classroom sitting in a circle for “Storytime”?
    Q:How is one able to pursue one’s intrigue with paint and colors and moving the paintbrush in various and cool gestures when one is scheduled to play in the block area?

    As you can see, these questions pose a conundrum when it comes to DAP and preschools as DAP cannot truly take place in “preschool” type of settings.


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    All content copyright Margaret Burkhart | 2011-2013