Developmentally Appropriate Child Care Curriculum

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When planning classroom curriculum for young children, it is important to factor in the wide spectrum of abilities and interests of children, as well as activities that are based on the way in which we know children learn. As more and more research becomes available on brain development, we, as early childhood professionals, respond by changing and evolving in how we work with children, and in our approaches to best assist them in reaching their full potentials – cognitively, socially, physically, and emotionally. "Developmentally Appropriate Practice" is more about doing things better – not "right" or "wrong."

To assist you in your planning, the following are questions to assess how appropriate an activity may be...

Does the activity:

  • Allow children to participate at their own level?
  • Allow for flexibility, with no "right" or "wrong" outcome?
  • Encourage active learning through participation?
  • Encourage exploration and thinking?
  • Allow for socialization and interaction with others?
  • Enable children to learn through their senses?
  • Allow children to experience things "hands-on"?
  • Give children choices?
  • Foster children’s positive feelings about themselves?
  • Respect individual differences and cultural diversity?
  • Lend itself to being adapted if beneficial?
  • Acknowledge the physical needs of children?
  • Reflect the goals and philosophy of the center?

What You Will See In a Developmentally Appropriate Classroom

  • Respectful, frequent and responsive interactions
  • Children offered choices, given opportunities to make decisions, and are active participants
  • A print-rich environment with many opportunities for children to interact and explore the written word (including a writing area)
  • Open-ended art materials available as a choicethroughout the day; Art displayed at the children’s eye-level (dictation present)
  • A stimulating, interactive science area, with real objects
  • Painting at the art easel available daily, as an on-going choice
  • Media/Sensory Tables open daily
  • Multi-cultural materials incorporated throughout the environment
  • Pictures of "real" objects and people (vs. cartoons)
  • Children employing problem-solving skills
  • Learning areas that are well-defined and inviting
  • Woodworking experiences available and utilized
  • Self-help skills and independence encouraged
  • Adults capitalizing on "teachable moments", and what the children express an interest in learning about
  • Age-appropriate expectations Ex: Mistakes and accidents ok
  • Children’s individual needs and skill levels taken into account
  • Many opportunities for children to experience success
  • Smooth transitions with minimal waiting and lining up
  • Children’s feelings acknowledged and validated
  • Role of the family acknowledged, with participation encouraged and valued
  • Activities facilitated in small groups instead of large groups with forced participation
  • Physical needs of children incorporated, with opportunities for large motor experiences available daily
  • The goal of guidance and discipline with the children being to develop self-control and to make better choices
  • The presence of music and laughter