What is developmentally appropriate practice and why does it matter? Do I need to be concerned about it in my home daycare?

Developmentally Appropriate Practice in Home Daycare

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What is developmentally appropriate practice and why does it matter? Do I need to do it when running a home daycare? Find out more.

kids dressed up like superheroes in a home daycare and kids exploring compost with magnifying glasses.

There are so many ways we can teach kids in our care. Most of society pressures us to give kids tons of quizzing and flashcards and piles of worksheets but are these methods the best for young children? Pushing kids to learn things before they are developmentally ready is a recipe for disaster for their learning future.

 According to Tracy Hinton, who is a child development expert and early childhood educator trainer, the most important reason to practice developmentally appropriate practice is to meet the needs of children so they can grow into capable productive adults. 

kids exploring soil with magnifying glasses

As children grow, they go through different developmental states. Each stage is a building block for the next stage. Children build morality, emotional health, academic skills, intelligence, and so much more through this building.

Children learn to listen, watch and stay calm with they are exposed to developmentally appropriate learning.

Children also learn to communicate without words. In order to function in society, it’s important that we read social cues, body language and understand other people’s communication. Furthermore, emotional ideas and learning to relate to others and feel close to them are important skills for kids to learn and understand.

Problem-solving blossoms when children are exposed to developmentally appropriate practice as well. Problem-solving skills are vital to success as an adult.

According to NAEYC, “developmentally appropriate practice (DAP) is an approach to teaching grounded in the research on how young children develop and learn and in what is known about effective early education. Its framework is designed to promote young children’s optimal learning and development. DAP involves teachers meeting young children where they are, both as individuals and as part of a group; and helping each child meet challenging and achievable learning goals.”

Teaching kids in the way they learn and at the stage of development they are at is vitally important to their success. There is not a cookie cutter answer to what all children need and when.

There are not certain ages that children master or should master each developmental stage. Each child is unique and has their own needs and their own way of learning that helps them to master each skill.

kids coloring animal color sheets at zoo party, devlopmentally appropriate practice.

Identifying what each child is taught at home and what their culture is in the home is the first step in understanding what a child needs for learning success. Taking into consideration what they already know is important. Having family involvement in childcare is great for children’s development. 

As each child is nurtured and taught, they also teach each other. For instance, we may have a child that understands fewer social cues and social rules than the others. They get frustrated easier than the other kids. As I work with them and the other kids in interacting with them, they are learning kindness and understanding of people who don’t think the same way they do.

They were frustrated because a child had a toy they wanted and they are learning that they can’t take it away. They were whining and looking dejected. I explained that there were more of that toy and where they were. The whining continued.

Another child took note and said, hey, they are over here. They not only got them a toy just like the one they wanted, but they took that child over to where they are kept and showed them so they would know next time.

They showed a ton of empathy and kindness in doing this. This was not just to make the behavior stop, but also to help that child grow. I felt very proud of this behavior. The child hurting was encouraged, cared for and satisfied and they knew what to do for next time. It was a wonderful blessing to see this work.

What is developmentally appropriate practice?

There are three basic steps to developmentally appropriate practice in early childhood settings. The first is knowing about child development. You have to understand what is typical learning and development for each age. Then we can figure out what experiences we can use to support a child’s development.

The second is knowing what is appropriate for that individual child. We have to work with a child and observe what stage of development they are in. Then we can form a plan for how to care for them and teach them as an individual. We have to know how they interact with other kids and the environment they are in. We also need to understand their abilities and what they are interested in.

Getting to know a child’s family is the third step. What factors and values shape their lives at home? Consider their values. What does the family expect? Then we can create respectful learning that is meaningful to each child.

Developmentally appropriate activities for toddlers

Developmentally appropriate practice depends on the environment you create for the kids. Are your materials culturally appropriate? Are they age appropriate? Do you have everything to meet the child’s needs?

Does the activity allow flexibility with no right or wrong outcome? Will it allow children to participate at their skill level? Do kids learn through doing it? Does it make them think? Is this activity good for promoting socializing with others? Is it a hands-on experience? Are all the child’s senses being used? Does it make the child feel positive about themselves? Is it respectful to physical needs and the child’s social culture?

Some great activities for toddlers would be drawing instead of coloring pages, activities with choices instead of one activity everyone has to participate in, and driven by the child’s interest instead of the teachers.

Dr. Seuss Activities for Preschool, preschooler wearing pipe cleaner glasses holding Dr. Seuss book for developmentall appropriate practice

Toddlers should be allowed to have music and art available to them at random times instead of having a strict schedule for those things only to be developmentally appropriate. Are the activities based on the child’s life experiences or are you studying the ocean when you live in Oklahoma?

Some great developmentally appropriate activities for toddlers include:

There is so much more, but this gives you an idea of where to start. The activities should be child-directed and enjoyed for the time the child is interested.

Developmentally appropriate activities for preschoolers

Preschool developmentally appropriate activities may include:

And so much more!

  • Give directions on what you want kids to do.
  • Provide information for kids to make their own decisions.
  • Ask questions that provoke kids to think.
  • Give support when kids ask for it.
  • Demonstrate and model how to solve a problem.
  • Give feedback and encourage.
  • Create or add challenge to the task.
  • Acknowledge what was learned.

Once you begin to think about what is developmentally appropriate and how much better those kinds of learning are for kids’ future, it will become second nature to you and you’ll let the worksheet and flash card pressure from society go. It’s not easy to stand up against a whole country that insists on rushing our kids, but the benefits far outweigh the struggle.

Rushing kids can cause anxiety disorders, poor self-esteem, and a general sense of failure for kids. We want to nurture our kid’s hearts and minds and support their growth into wonderful adults someday. Your job is so important and I want to encourage you to stand up for kids.

It’s not about perfection in parenting and childcare. It’s about a balance of good things for kids. If you haven’t been using developmentally appropriate practices in your daycare, start small and change up a few things until eventually you get there. It’s a learning process so give yourself time like you do the kids. You’re going to rock it!

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