Developmentally Appropriate Practice

Principles of Child Development and Learning that Inform Practice Developed by the National Association for the Education of Young Children and published in its book, Developmentally Appropriate Practice in Early Childhood Programs, Third Edition, 2009

Developmentally appropriate practice is informed by what we know from theory and literature about how children develop and learn. While the list below is comprehensive, it is not all-inclusive. Each principle describes an individually contributing factor, but just as all domains of development and learning are interrelated, so too do the principles interconnect. For example, the influence of cultural differences and individual differences, each highlighted in a separate principle below, cuts across all the other principles.

Collectively the principles below form a solid basis for decision-making. They help teachers, programs, and families make decisions at all levels about how best to meet the needs of young children in general. They also help consider strengths and needs of individual children, with all their variations in prior experiences, abilities and talents, home language and English proficiency, personalities and temperaments, and community and cultural backgrounds.


Guiding Principles of Developmentally Appropriate Practice

All the domains of development and learning—physical, social and emotional, and cognitive—are important and they are closely related. Children’s development and learning in one domain influence and are influenced by what takes place in other domains. 
Many aspects of children’s learning and development follow well-documented sequences, with later abilities, skills, and knowledge building on those already acquired.

Physical Growth and Development of Young Children

Development and learning proceed at varying rates from child to child, as well as at uneven rates across different areas of a child’s individual functioning.
Development and learning result from a dynamic and continuous interaction of biological maturation and experience.
Early experiences have profound effects, both cumulative and delayed, on a child’s development and learning; and optimal periods exist for certain types of development and learning to occur.
Development proceeds toward greater complexity self-regulation, and symbolic or representational capacities.

Word Families

Children develop best when they have secure, consistent relationships with responsive adults and opportunities for positive relationships with peers.

Making Friends

Development and learning occur in and are influenced by multiple social and cultural contexts.

Stages of Block Play


Always mentally active in seeking to understand the world around them,children learn in a variety of ways; a wide range of teaching strategies and interactions are effective in supporting all these kinds of learning.

Number Sense

Play is an important vehicle for developing self-regulation as well as for promoting language, cognition, and social competence.
Development and learning advance when children are challenged to achieve at a level just beyond their current mastery, and also when they have many opportunities to practice newly acquired skills.

Summary of Children’s Development and Need for Mathematics Instruction 

Children’s experiences shape their motivation and approaches to learning,such as persistence, initiative, and flexibility; in turn, these dispositions and behaviors affect their learning and development.

Science Education