The expression Developmentally Appropriate Practice is widely used by professionals who take care of children, in order to mention the care that takes into account such levels of child’s development as: physical, social, emotional, and intellectual. As there is no one right way to take care of children, so there are different instruction that focus on the development of a child and offers the care that is appropriate at different stages. These guidelines help to understand ways to care for children and help them develop positive self-esteem. Such guidelines have been developed by professionals and are based on idea of developmental appropriateness that consists of two parts: age and individual appropriateness.
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Developmentally appropriate practice is important, because the healthy development in the early years is the foundation of child’s future well-being and success. A child’s healthy development in the physical, cognitive (mental), social, emotional and language areas depends on care and education that is positive and nurturing. Young children vary widely in their specific developmental and individual needs or conditions. With DAP caregivers benefit from a sound and accurate understanding of what children are generally capable of doing or not doing based on their age and developmental abilities. Children benefit when the adults around them provide a care environment that reflects an understanding of child development and developmentally appropriate practices.
The topic of Developmentally Appropriate Practice is well discussed in the book “Developmentally Appropriate Practice: Curriculum and Development in Early Education”, written by Carol Gestwicki. The book was published in 2007 and it explains us what DAP is and touches such topics as developmentally appropriate physical, social, emotional, cognitive and language environments.
The program and methodic of DAP is different for every age group (Infants, Toddlers, Preschoolers, Primary-Aged Children). This work is devoted to DAP of infants who learn new things by experiencing the world by seeing, smelling, tasting, feeling, and moving around. Babies learn how to trust through interaction with consistent, caring adults. Grown-up people need to hold, play and talk with the child. The adult helps the infant to learn by mentioning things to look at, touch, and hear. Also, toilet training, dressing and feeding are taught without any criticism and provide opportunities to let the infants do for themselves.
The best teaching technique for infants group is to give opportunities for the kids to use self- initiated repetition to practice newly acquired skills and to develop feelings of autonomy and success.
Cognitive Development. Infants are like sponges with arms and eyes. They mysteriously soak up the noises, sights, and tactile experiences that appear in their lives. How they convert this sensory soup into ideas and understanding is a great mystery, but it is becoming increasingly clear that cognitive development is related to brain development. The truth is that as children are exposed to a rich sensory world, the number of synapse connections in the brain is increased. During DAP, parents and teachers should point out objects or share items to look at, touch or hear. They need to share back-and-forth interactions such as peek-a-boo, hand games or finger plays; allow many opportunities for children to explore for themselves and play without interruption; enable children to build esteem by doing things on their own or for themselves; provide choices to children in doing activities, using materials or making decisions and also use a variety of approaches to care for and meet each child’s individual needs and foster children’s abilities.
Language Development. The development of language begins with pre-verbal communication between adult and child. The child babbles and elicits favorable responses from adults, spawning more babbling, and more response from adults, and so on. Early language is built on early experience, so again, stimulating environments support the overall development of the child, and support the concept development that gives us something to talk about. Play environments support language development by providing safe spaces, sufficient materials for sharing, places for parallel play, places for face-to-face play across barriers, and materials that respond to the child.
Social-emotional development. A “crying” need for the infant is for security, to learn to trust in its world. For the infant, security is found in having needs met: being held and fed, having a diaper changed, and being responded to in a predictable way. Safety and comfort equal security, and security allows the child to develop proper emotional health. Insecure children will stay near the caregiver, foregoing opportunities to explore and learn. Safety and comfort are provided by adults, so a clear implication is to provide adequate staff ratios. It is important for infant environments to allow the child to see the adult, and vice versa, at all times. Parents should hold, talk, sing and play with infants regularly. Also they should give children individual toys to play with and understand sharing is not yet to be expected.
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Emotional development is enhanced whenever we meet success and feel that we can handle our environments. For infants, a good playground provides for successful experiences. Meeting and overcoming age appropriate challenges builds self-esteem, and thus arms the child for the next level of challenge. For example, climbing a three-step high climber and successfully negotiating the return flight gives a toddler the confidence to try the slide on the next trip.
Physical Development. As we have talked about each of the other areas of Development, we can see that all the areas of development interact. Physical development in young children is basic to all other areas of development. And the most important area of physical development for infants is balance. Without balance skills, the ability to move, run, climb, and jump safely is drastically impaired. Much of the movement behavior of the early years is spent developing balance and coordination. The play environment must be a place where safe physical activity can happen. There must be room to move without hitting hard or sharp edges, and without being hit (locations of pull-toy tracks and swings thus become very important). There must be equipment to suit the size and skills of the walking infant. There must be resilient surfacing around even low climbers since young users have immature balance skills and may lack the arm strength to hold on to climbers.
Environment should be clean, Soft and/or Rounded, safe, have space to move freely, levels to crawl, walk into and around, Suited to the skill range, include individual/private spaces, have various textures – especially softness, should be separate, should have toys/materials displayed on open, low shelving; toys should be large enough not to be swallowed; toys should be cleaned/laundered daily. The environment should have large motor area for throwing, riding, climbing, crawling, running, jumping and also have push/pull toys area. It should include dramatic play area/materials, block play area/materials, small motor area/materials and book area with appropriate books. Parents should provide face-to-face interactions with adults so infants can see, hear and feel others; furnish child-safe toys and materials that encourage physical exploration and movement; allow infants to see, mouth and grab soft objects to experience tactile stimulation; give support to learning large motor skills such as crawling, standing, throwing and walking.
Developmentally appropriate care and education for children is respectful of each child’s unique needs and developing abilities. Care settings are more likely to reflect developmentally appropriate practices when they utilize qualified caregivers or teachers with knowledge, skills and experience in working with young children. Parents should be aware that the learning and development of their children depends on attentiveness to all aspects of a child’s well-being. Physical, social, emotional and cognitive dimensions of child development all should receive attention in a high-quality setting that prioritizes developmentally appropriate care and education.