Want Children to Thrive? Support Developmentally Appropriate Practice for Educators

May 4, 2023 / 5 mins read

The experiences children have in their early childhood years lay the foundation for success in school and beyond, and it all starts with being seen, heard, recognized, and accepted. Children who are comfortable and confident in their surroundings, and loved, cared for, and educated by responsive and nurturing adults, are primed to maximize their learning potential.

This is why Developmentally Appropriate Practice (DAP) is the bedrock for early childhood education. DAP is a guide that supports children’s physical, cognitive and social-emotional growth and development. DAP is adaptable; it meets children where they are developmentally and values the social and cultural context in which they live.

It is precisely why All Our Kin uses it in educational coaching to support our work. It is challenging to learn, develop and grow in spaces that don’t foster a sense of belonging and connection. DAP supports high-quality learning environments and interactions that enable the healthy growth and development of young children.

However, DAP has come under fire recently, specifically as it relates to a publication from the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), the organization that concretized DAP. Dr. Barbara Cooper, Secretary of the Alabama Department of Early Childhood Education, was forced to resign after being told to stop using NAEYC’s research-based resource, Developmentally Appropriate Practice (DAP) in Early Childhood Programs, 4th Edition. The objection? That the publication, which is unique in its focus on the whole child, references unconscious bias, equity and making sure all children feel welcomed and included.

There is inherent (and evidence-based) value in creating spaces where educators, including family child care educators, can offer inclusive, culturally responsive, child-centered learning environments. There is a need for experts like Dr. Cooper to share resources that foster these environments. If you wish to learn more or sign on to NAEYC’s efforts to support DAP, you can do so here.