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Early Childhood: Developmentally Appropriate Practices

Play is the Way!

Children Learn by Playing

DPI promotes play as the key to early learning.



  • The National Association for the Education of Young Children was the front runner in the development of developmentally appropriate practices. They now have these practices developed for infants and toddlers, preschoolers, and kindergartners. The concept of developmental appropriateness has three dimensions: age appropriateness, individual appropriateness and cultural appropriateness.
    1. Age appropriateness is based on human development research which indicates that there are universal, predictable sequences of growth and change that occur in children during the first nine years of life. These predictable changes occur in all domains of development - physical, emotional, social, and cognitive. Knowledge of typical development of children within the age span provides a framework from which teachers prepare the learning environment and plan appropriate experiences.
    2. Individual appropriateness recognizes that each child is a unique person with an individual pattern and timing of growth, as will as an individual personality, learning style, and family background.
    3. Cultural appropriateness recognizes the importance of the knowledge of the social and cultural contexts in which children live to ensure that learning experiences are meaningful, relevant, and respectful for the children and their families.

      Both the curriculum and the adult’s interaction with the child should be responsive to individual difference. The National Association of Elementary School Principals then adapted established principals for developmentally appropriate practices for elementary school children. These strategies are based on the knowledge of how young children learn.


  • Early Childhood Education and the Elementary School Principal: Standards for Quality Programs for Young Children
  • The National Association of Elementary School Principals
  • The National Association for the Education of Young Children
  • Other Resources on Developmentally Appropriate Practices





For questions about this information, contact Sherry Kimball (608) 267-9625