How to Engage in Developmentally Appropriate Practice in Childhood

The challenges that the world faces today are transnational. Early educators are responsible for imparting two years of learning children lost out on during the pandemic.

Early educators, after parents, play a crucial role in the development of young children. They equip kids with the tools to fight challenges and become confident and resilient individuals. This hands-on approach taken by teachers to support the development of tiny tots is known as developmentally appropriate practice (DAP).

By implementing DAP methods in your preschool and daycare centers, you can help kids develop a penchant for ‘learning for life.’ As the New Education Policy 2020 calls for 21st-century skills to be introduced in preschools, preschool owners must train their teachers in DAP. Read our story to familiarise yourself with the components of DAP and how you can impart it in your preschool.

Table of contents

  • What is developmentally appropriate practice?
  • What are the components of developmentally appropriate practice?
  • What are the examples of DAP?
  • Principles of developmentally appropriate practice
  • What are the guidelines for developmentally appropriate practices?
  • Using technology to support DAP

What is developmentally appropriate practice?

DAP definition

In order to understand the importance of developmentally appropriate practices (DAP) in early childhood education (ECE), one must first understand DAP and its history in ECE. “Developmentally appropriate practices incorporate the belief that young children need to develop positive dispositions and attitudes for learning as well as concepts and skills necessary for success in school and life”.

The National Association for the Education of Young Children (or NAEYC) defines the developmentally appropriate practice as educators’ techniques to promote play-based, joyful learning among students. It brings the parent and teacher community together as they’re tied by a common goal: to support the child’s unique accomplishments. Early teachers encourage children to pursue their interests in a healthy learning environment to achieve their full potential.

The child’s development should be appropriate to their

  • age
  • learning capacities
  • cultural context
  • linguistic strength, and
  • talents they bring to the table

Thus, DAP serves as the base for the curriculum set in preschools and daycares. Before planning the lessons, preschool owners and teachers should discuss which practices will be fit for each child. Lesson planning will be less time-consuming and cumbersome if the effort is taken to document observations inside and outside the classroom.

The NAEYC also emphasizes establishing an open relationship with parents to support a child’s developmental progress. You can achieve this by building child development charts or recording student assessments.

What are the components of developmentally appropriate practice?

Three components of DAP apply to a teacher’s decision-making process to foster a child’s growth. They are Context, Commonality, and Individuality.

components of DAP

Source: Rasmussen University

When considering context in development and learning, consider how and what to teach each child. It should be relevant to their interests, needs, desires, and skills. The children should also learn to embrace commonality by collaborating on hands-on activities in school. Finally, the child should be given a platform to share their individuality by taking on dance, music, or other co-curricular activities.




A child’s growth relies on social and cultural context.

The cultural context refers to a child’s family, teachers, and caregivers who impart values.

The social context implies their fair assessment of race, color, and gender issues.

By recording observations of students, teachers can hone the cultural and experiential commonalities among them.

These observations refine the teachings imparted to them as a whole.

By looping parents in about their child’s activities and accomplishments, both parties will identify the unique talents the child possesses.

It’s important to remember that every child grows at their own pace.

According to NAEYC, educators can use various techniques to implement these three core considerations.

“Reflect on their knowledge of the community, seek information from the family, observe the child, examine the child’s work, and use authentic, valid, and reliable individual child assessments.”

What are the examples of DAP?

Incorporating DAP into the classroom? Follow these examples to set up the students for successful learning:

  • Change the learning materials frequently to cater to the child’s evolving needs.
  • Have play areas that require a sensory application, like reacting to the music, puzzles, books, blocks, toys, sand, etc.
  • Avoid clutter in the daycare to let infants move around.
  • Ensure the learning materials are contextual and appropriate for infants, toddlers, or preschoolers.
  • Experiment with the classroom design to motivate students to perform better.

Principles of developmentally appropriate practice

DAP reflects the interplay between a child and their environment, each shaping the other. The following principles will help you promote high-quality early learning experiences in your daycare or preschool:

1. Improve communication with children

Source: SlidetoDoc

Neural connections in the brain are established between 0-9 years of age. They lay the foundation for communication among children, which is why adults need to regulate child behavior.

Educators can keep in touch with the students after school hours by using a digital tool to keep posted about whether children are using what they’ve learned. Various platforms, such as Brightwheel, Himama, and Illumine, empower teachers to remain in touch with parents 24/7, removing all geographical and time barriers.

The USP of our daycare management app is that teachers can involve parents in the child’s developmental progress by sharing daily reports, assessments, assignments, and lesson plans in a couple of clicks. We pride ourselves on making communication and collaboration easier among all stakeholders involved in the child’s progress.

2. Involve families

Some children are more affected by positive and negative familial influence than others. It is important to address parent concerns in real-time to avoid them from blowing out of proportion in the future.

If you’re witnessing increasing reports of errant student behavior, put CCTVs across the classrooms. Give parents access to the live stream to bring them up to speed with their child’s routine. If something’s wrong with a child’s behavior, the parent can take note of that and speak to the child at home to make amends.

With Illumine, parents can see their child live in the classroom and take charge of their child’s growth remotely, leading to a 2x increase in developmental progress shown by the child.

3. Guided play

Guided play has several advantages for children, such as:

  • Fostering self-regulation
  • Enhancing cognitive and language capabilities
  • Increasing knowledge across disciplines
  • Developing fine motor skills
  • Expressing and controlling their emotions
  • Developing problem-solving abilities

The list is exhaustive. You can plan learning activities based on student engagement. If children and parents engage with an early childhood program more than the others, prioritize it over the rest. Remember that the curriculum should invest in the child’s evolving needs. You can also communicate with parents about these meaningful and engaging experiences via Illumine’s dashboard. All parents can see it and engage with your posts. The post which gets the highest engagement can help you determine popular activities in the parent community. For example, sports day and dress-up competitions are a hit with preschoolers and parents.

4. Report on a child’s progress

In a dilemma about how to track student assessment and progress? Go digital. Avoid paper trails by reporting on student support and guidance. You can use Illumine to add development areas for infants and toddlers and color code them for easy classification. Our visual development area organizer is loved by parents globally. Most parents appreciate its slick design and instant access to their child’s behavior or academic zones they need to focus on.

What are the guidelines for developmentally appropriate practices?

The following guidelines address how teachers can create a community of lifelong learners using DAP:

  1. Observe children’s growth and document your findings
  2. Teach to improve a child’s understanding of concepts
  3. Help children unlearn toxic behaviors
  4. Demonstrate professionalism as a teacher
  5. Support children in achieving their milestones via assessments

The chart below shows how implementing DAP can make the teaching process transformative, empowering, personalized, and culturally affirming.

Source: Cambridge University Press

Using technology to support DAP

Digital tools not only support children’s learning but can also offer support for teachers. If you’re considering adding a digital tool for your daycare or preschool, we’d love to chat!

Illumine invites teachers to take photos and videos of children, record observations, and document assessments. We encourage teachers to engage parents in discussions about developing developmentally appropriate practices for their classroom. We support hundreds of childcare centers and can’t wait to start you on a journey of scaling up your business.

Download our free resource on developmentally appropriate classroom essentials to make your classroom child-friendly.  Book a demo with our team to keep track of the developmental progress students makes!


Printable Resource on Developmentally Appropriate Classroom Essentials (attached below)

Related articles:

A guide to planning lessons for preschools

How to start a preschool? A complete guide

Importance of preschool behavior charts and best practices

Activity Moments of Children at Preschool to Share with Parents

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