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Developmentally appropriate practice (or DAP) is a perspective within early childhood education whereby a teacher or child caregiver nurtures a child's social/emotional, physical, and cognitive development by basing all practices and decisions on (1) theories of child development, (2) individually identified strengths and weaknesses of each child uncovered through authentic assessment, and (3) the child's cultural background as defined by his community, family history, and family structure.[1].


DAP is one of a number of practices associated with Outcome-based education and other progressive education reform movements. Some problems are that some reforms such as NCTM mathematics and Whole Language which fully support "Developmentally Appropriate Practices" are believed to introduce students to materials and concepts which may be too advanced for young children, or above their reading levels. [2]. On the opposite side, some approaches use content and concepts considerably below traditional grade levels. The National Science Education Standards proposes to teach elementary school students how to construct their own experiments, whereas traditionally high school students and even college students were typically taught how to perform pre-designed, but not construct their own experiments.


Adults are responsible for ensuring children's health development and learning. From birth, relationships with adults are critical determinants of children's healthy social and emotional development and serve as well as mediators of language and intellectual development. At the same time children are active constructors of their own understanding, who benefit from initiating and regulatiing their own learning activities and interaction with peers. Therefore, early childhood teachers strive to achieve an optimal balance between children's self-intitiated learning and adult guidance and support.

Sue Bredekamp and Carol Copple, Developmentally Appropriate Practice in Early Childhood Programs, pg. 17


  1. Bredekamp, V.S. & Copple, C. (1997). Developmentally Appropriate Practice in Early Childhood Programs. Washington, DC: NAEYC. URL accessed on 2007-01-04.
  2. AMERICAN INSTITUTES FOR RESEARCH What the United States Can Learn From Singapore’s World-Class Mathematics System February 7, 2005 Page 47: "Because topics are mapped out in such a general way, the NCTM requirements risk exposing students to unrealistically advanced mathematics content in the early grades."

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