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What are Developmentally Appropriate Learning Practices (DAP)? Why should you know about it?

In early childhood education, it is exceptionally important for you, as a parent, a caregiver, or a teacher to understand the different learning and teaching techniques appropriate for your child. DAP or Developmentally Appropriate Practices are a set of guidelines that can help you unlock your child’s true learning potential from a young age. NAEYC (National Association for the Education of Young Children) states, “Developmentally Appropriate Practice is informed by what we know from theory and literature about how children develop and learn.”

Using the right education tools from a young age can enable children to undertake challenges and reach achievable goals. This gives them a sense of accomplishment and motivates them to keep trying hard. It also helps them understand how to push themselves to achieve more. Below are some suggestions to keep in mind while planning developmentally appropriate learning activities–

- All domains of child development are important

Young children learn through play, and it is important to keep in mind all aspects of their development. Every activity that the child undertakes should enable them to improve in four main domains - emotional, social, linguistic, cognitive, and physical. While all of these might not always happen simultaneously, they are all equally important in ensuring the healthy growth of a child. The different aspects of a child’s development do not work in isolation, they are all inter-connected, each one affects the other. One must use the ‘whole-child’ approach and support learning in all four domains.

- Development and learning vary from child to child

All children are different and there is no predefined curriculum that will work a 100% for your child. Every child’s needs are unique, the rate at which children absorb information is different, and every child has different ways in which they learn. Therefore, teachers, parents, and caregivers should alter their methods and expectations to match with their children. Following the same approach with every child can set both the educator as well as the child for disappointment.

- Do not diminish the importance of play

Authors Kristi Mraz, Alison Porcelli and Cheryl Tyler, authors of the amazing book, Purposeful Play: A Teacher’s Guide to Igniting Deep & Joyful Learning Across the Day write, “Play connects us to the world and to each other and offers unlimited possibilities.” Children gain knowledge of the world around them through hands-on play. Participating in a group activity helps them view themselves as a part of society and teaches them to navigate social expectations. With play, you can give your children a learning environment where there is no right or wrong approach, this eliminates the threat of failure and allows them to flourish in a safe and supportive environment.

As parents, caretakers, or teachers, it is our collective responsibility to actively seek out and meticulously plan the best opportunities for children to support their healthy development. DAP considers each child as a single unit and is tailored to suit their learning journey; it responds to their needs of development. It is not a one-size-fits-all approach. Every child is given an age-appropriate education and through the use of play children are taught to actively engage in the learning process. Thinkabee courses are designed using DAP practices, they are custom-made to suit your child and their development.


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