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The Connection Between Developmentally Appropriate Practice and Curriculum

There is a strong connection between developmentally appropriate practice (DAP) and planning curriculum. “DAP provides guidance for thinking about, planning, and implementing high-quality programs for young children. It informs our decision making and gives us a basis for continually scrutinizing our professional practice” (Kostelnik, Soderman, Whiren, & Rupiper, 2015, p. 23). It is this process that allows us to ensure that the curriculum we are implementing is meeting the needs of the children we are working with. In this first discussion forum we will look at the connection between DAP and planning curriculum by taking a deeper look at the role teachers and administrators play in supporting a developmentally appropriate curriculum for teaching young children, including utilizing their knowledge of the principles of child development.

To begin, review the twelve overarching principles of DAP (Kostelnik, Soderman, Whiren, & Rupiper, 2015, p. 23). Next, locate your assigned group from the table below.

Last Name Begins With (W)

Overarching DAP Principles

A – H

  • Adults develop warm caring relationships with children.
  • Child guidance fosters self-regulation. Adults acknowledge children’s positive behaviors, reason with children, and treat their misbehaviors as learning opportunities.
  • Curricula are whole-child focused. Programs address children’s aesthetic, emotional, intellectual, language, social, and physical needs.
  • Programs address the learning needs of all children, including children who have special needs and those who do not speak English as their home language.

I – P

  • Indoor and outdoor environments are safe and stimulating; routines are well suited to the needs of young children.
  • Children have numerous opportunities to learn by doing through hands-on activities that are relevant and meaningful to them.
  • Children are active decision makers in their own learning. They have many opportunities to initiate activities and to make choices about what and how they will learn.
  • Children have numerous opportunities to play throughout the day.


  • Teachers are intentional in their teaching. They have specific goals in mind for children’s learning and use relevant instructional strategies to address those goals.
  • Curricula are integrated across disciplines and developmental domains.
  • Assessment takes place continuously throughout the day and addresses all developmental domains. Adults gather information about what children know and can do through observations, by collecting work samples, and by inviting children to document their own learning.
  • Early childhood practitioners establish reciprocal relationships with children’s families.

Address the following items based on the group to which you were assigned:

  • Compare and contrast the role of a teacher and the role of an administrator in implementing each of the overarching principles of DAP in a school or center.
  • Explain how each of the overarching principles of DAP you were assigned align with the Principles of Child Development and Learning that are shared in Table 2.2 on page 47 of our course text.
    • Provide explicit examples of how the principles are connected and how understanding these connections will inform your curriculum decisions.
  • Discuss how your knowledge of these overarching principles of DAP will allow you to build upon your knowledge in order “to design, implement, and evaluate meaningful, challenging curricula for each child” (NAEYC Standard 5c).

TABLE 2.2 Connecting Knowledge of Development and Learning to Teaching Practices

Principles of Child Development and Learning

Developmentally Appropriate Teaching Practices

Children develop holistically

• Teachers plan daily activities and routines to address aesthetic, emotional, cognitive, language, physical, and social development.

• Teachers integrate learning across the curriculum (e.g., mixing language, physical, and social; combining math, science, and reading).

Child development follows an orderly sequence

• Teachers use their knowledge of developmental sequences to gauge whether children are developing as expected, to determine reasonable expectations, and to plan next steps in the learning process.

Children develop at varying rates

• Teachers give children opportunities to pursue activities at their own pace.

• Teachers repeat activities more than once so children can participate according to changing needs and abilities.

• Teachers plan activities with multiple learning objectives to address the needs of more and less advanced learners.

Children learn best when they feel safe and secure

• Teachers develop nurturing relationships with children and remain with children long enough so children can easily identify a specific adult from whom to seek help, comfort, attention, and guidance.

• Daily routines are predictable. Changes in routine are explained in advance so children can anticipate what will happen.

• There is two-way communication between teachers and families, and families are welcome in the program.

• Children have access to images, objects, and activities that reflect their home experiences.

• The early childhood environment complies with all safety requirements.

• Adults use positive discipline to enhance children’s self-esteem, self-control, and problem-solving abilities.

• Teachers address aggression and bullying calmly, firmly, and proactively.

Children are active learners

• Activities, transitions, and routines respect children’s attention span, need for activity and need for social interaction. Inactive segments of the day are short.

• Children participate in gross motor activities every day.

Children learn through a combination of physical experience, social experience, and reflection

• Adults encourage children to explore and investigate. They pose questions, offer information, and challenge children’s thinking.

• Children have many chances to document and reflect on their ideas.

Children learn through mastery and challenge

• Practitioners simplify, maintain, or extend activities in response to children’s functioning and comprehension.

Children’s learning profiles vary

• Teachers present the same information in more than one modality (seeing, hearing, touching) and through different types of activities.

• Children have opportunities to play on their own and with others; indoors and outdoors; with natural and manufactured materials.

Children learn through play

• Teachers prepare the environment, provide materials, observe and interact playfully with children.

• Play is integrated throughout the entire day and within all aspects of the program.

Until now, we have focused on the characteristics of the children you will be teaching. Now it is time to consider what you will be teaching. That dimension of teacher knowledge addresses content—the information and skills children will learn in your classroom.