8082 Dis 1 To Prepare: Review this module’s Learning Resources with particular attention to the NAEYC Position Statement on Developmentally Appropriate Pra

8082 Dis 1 To Prepare:
Review this module’s Learning Resources with particular attention to the NAEYC Position Statement on Developmentally Appropriate Pra

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8082 Dis 1 To Prepare:
Review this module’s Learning Resources with particular attention to the NAEYC Position Statement on Developmentally Appropriate Practice. 

(Check attachments) Developmentally Appropriate Practice
National Association for the Education of Young Children

Position Statement

Adopted by the NAEYC National

Governing Board April 2020

Each and every child, birth through age 8, has the right to equitable learning

opportunities—in centers, family child care homes, or schools—that fully

support their optimal development and learning across all domains and

content areas. Children are born eager to learn; they take delight exploring

their world and making connections. The degree to which early learning

programs support children’s delight and wonder in learning reflects

the quality of that setting. Educators who engage in developmentally

appropriate practice foster young children’s joyful learning and maximize

the opportunities for each and every child to achieve their full potential.

Disponible en Español: NAEYC.org/dap


NAEYC Position Statement

NAEYC accepts requests for limited use of our copyrighted material.
For permission to reprint, adapt, translate, or otherwise reuse and
repurpose content from the final published document, review our
guidelines at NAEYC.org/resources/permissions.

Developmentally Appropriate Practice: A Position Statement
of the National Association for the Education of Young Children.
Copyright © 2020 by the National Association for the Education
of Young Children. All rights reserved.


Developmentally Appropriate Practice

3 Introduction
3 Purpose
5 Statement of the Position
5 Defining Developmentally Appropriate Practice

6 Core Considerations to Inform Decision Making

8 Principles of Child Development and Learning
and Implications That Inform Practice

14 Guidelines for Developmentally Appropriate Practice in Action:
Using Knowledge of Child Development and Learning in Context
15 1. Creating a Caring, Equitable Community of Learners
18 2. Engaging in Reciprocal Partnerships with Families and Fostering Community Connections
19 3. Observing, Documenting, and Assessing Children’s Development and Learning
21 4. Teaching to Enhance Each Child’s Development and Learning
25 5. Planning and Implementing an Engaging Curriculum to Achieve Meaningful Goals
28 6. Demonstrating Professionalism as an Early Childhood Educator

29 Recommendations for Implementing Developmentally Appropriate Practice
30 1. Recommendations for Schools, Family Child Care Homes, and Other Program Settings
31 2. Recommendations for Higher Education and Adult Development
31 3. Recommendations for Policymakers
32 4. Recommendations for Research
32 Conclusion

33 Appendix A: History and Context

35 Appendix B: Glossary

38 Appendix C: Acknowledgements

39 Endnotes






Chief among the professional responsibilities of early childhood educators is the responsibility to

plan and implement intentional, developmentally appropriate learning experiences that promote the

social and emotional development, physical development and health, cognitive development, and

general learning competencies of each child served.1 But what does it mean to be “developmentally

appropriate”? This position statement, one of five foundational documents developed by NAEYC

in collaboration with the early childhood profession to advance high-quality early learning for

all young children, defines the term. The definition emerges from a set of evidence-based core

considerations and principles of child development and learning, all of which are explained in the

principles section of this statement. To support educators’ use of developmentally appropriate

practice, this statement also identifies guidelines for decision making in six key areas of responsibility

that correspond to the Professional Standards and Competencies for Early Childhood Educators.2


Practice (DAP)

Standards and
Competencies for
Early Childhood


Code of
Ethical Conduct

Equity in Early





NAEYC’s Foundational Documents






This statement’s primary focus is on the decisions early childhood
educators make that result in developmentally appropriate
practice. It is important to note, however, that educators
make these decisions within settings that include their specific
programs as well as broader systems, states, and societal
contexts. Decision making that advances developmentally
appropriate practice is facilitated when these systems also
reflect the tenets described within this statement. Therefore, in
addition to identifying guidelines for early childhood educators,
the statement makes specific recommendations for policies and
actions needed to support educators as they strive to implement
developmentally appropriate practice—in their work settings,
through professional preparation and development, in public
policy, and through continuing research.

This is the fourth edition of NAEYC’s position statement on
developmentally appropriate practice. (For a brief history and
summary of changes from previous editions, see Appendix A.)
More extensively than in previous editions, the definition, core
considerations, principles, guidelines, and recommendations
all underscore the importance of social, cultural, and historical
contexts. This broader view emphasizes the implications of
contexts not only for each child, but also for all the adults
(educators, administrators, and others) involved in any aspect
of early childhood education.

We begin this statement noting multiple tensions:

1. This position statement is based on a synthesis of current
research and evidence across multiple disciplines. Although
research finds that culture and context matter, relatively
little research has been conducted with children from non-
White and non-middle-class backgrounds. There is also a
need for additional research led by those who reflect the
diversity of children and families and their lived experiences.

2. This position statement requires well-prepared and qualified
early childhood educators to engage in effective decision
making. Yet insufficient funding and other policy decisions
(for example, budget-driven decisions related to group
size and ratios or mandated curricula and assessments
that do not reflect the principles of development and
learning identified here) have resulted in suboptimal
environments, challenging working conditions, and
inadequate compensation that make it difficult for early
childhood educators to implement these guidelines.

3. This position statement elevates the crucial support
educators require from higher education and other
professional development systems. Yet even as they
grapple with their own institutional biases and inequities,
professional preparation programs and ongoing professional
development systems must orient themselves towards
consistently and effectively preparing and supporting
educators to reflect on and address their own inherent
biases and to help them provide developmentally, culturally,
and linguistically responsive learning experiences to
an increasingly diverse population of children.

4. This position statement highlights the importance of
learning experiences that are meaningful to each child
and that provide active engagement through play,
exploration, and inquiry in ways that support the whole
child—socially, emotionally, physically, and cognitively. Yet
such opportunities are too often denied to young children
when educational practices are not responsive to their
developmental, cultural, and linguistic characteristics.

5. This position statement is based on NAEYC’s core values
and beliefs, which underscore the fundamental right of each
and every child to live in a society dedicated to helping them
achieve their full potential. Yet the historical and current
inequitable distribution of societal power and privilege on
the basis of race, ethnicity, gender, language, disability, and
other social identities results in limited opportunities and
harms children—as well as early childhood professionals.3

Each of these tensions must be addressed for each child to
achieve their full potential. We offer this statement as a call to
action, committing to work collectively to address the ways in
which current realities constrain the full potential of all young
children as we continue to reflect and learn from multiple,
diverse perspectives.





Statement of the Position
Each and every child, birth through age 8, has the right to equitable learning opportunities—in

centers, family child care homes, or schools—that fully support their optimal development and

learning across all domains and content areas. Children are born eager to learn; they take delight

exploring their world and making connections. The degree to which early learning programs

support children’s delight and wonder in learning reflects the quality of that setting. Educators

who engage in developmentally appropriate practice foster young children’s joyful learning

and maximize the opportunities for each and every child to achieve their full potential.

Defining Developmentally Appropriate Practice
NAEYC defines “developmentally appropriate practice” as
methods that promote each child’s optimal development and
learning through a strengths-based, play-based approach to
joyful, engaged learning. Educators implement developmentally
appropriate practice by recognizing the multiple assets all young
children bring to the early learning program as unique individuals
and as members of families and communities. Building on
each child’s strengths—and taking care to not harm any aspect
of each child’s physical, cognitive, social, or emotional well-
being—educators design and implement learning environments
to help all children achieve their full potential across all domains
of development and across all content areas. Developmentally

appropriate practice recognizes and supports each individual
as a valued member of the learning community. As a result,
to be developmentally appropriate, practices must also be
culturally, linguistically, and ability appropriate for each child.

The Developmentally Appropriate Practice Position Statement
is a framework of principles and guidelines to support a teacher’s
intentional decision making for practice. The principles serve
as the evidence base for the guidelines for practice, and both
are situated within three core considerations—commonality,
individuality, and context.


Core Considerations
to Inform Decision Making
Developmentally appropriate practice requires early childhood educators to seek out and gain

knowledge and understanding using three core considerations: commonality in children’s development

and learning, individuality reflecting each child’s unique characteristics and experiences, and the

context in which development and learning occur. These core considerations apply to all aspects of

educators’ decision-making in their work to foster each child’s optimal development and learning.

1 Commonality—current research and understandings
of processes of child development and learning that
apply to all children, including the understanding that
all development and learning occur within specific
social, cultural, linguistic, and historical contexts

An ever-increasing body of research documents the tremendous
amount of development and learning that occur from birth
through age 8 across all domains and content areas and how
foundational this development and learning is for later life.4
This extensive knowledge base, including both what is known
about general processes of children’s development and learning
and the educational practices educators need to fully support
development and learning in all areas, is summarized in the
principles section of this statement.

When considering commonalities in development and learning,
it is important to acknowledge that much of the research
and the principal theories that have historically guided early
childhood professional preparation and practice have primarily
reflected norms based on a Western scientific-cultural model.5,
6 Little research has considered a normative perspective based
on other groups. As a result, differences from this Western

(typically White, middle-class, monolingual English-speaking)
norm have been viewed as deficits, helping to perpetuate
systems of power and privilege and to maintain structural
inequities.7, 8 Increasingly, theories once assumed to be universal
in developmental sciences, such as attachment, are now
recognized to vary by culture and experience.9

The current body of evidence indicates that all child development
and learning—actually, all human development and learning—
are always embedded within and affected by social and cultural
contexts.10 As social and cultural contexts vary, so too do
processes of development and learning. Social and cultural
aspects are not simply ingredients of development and learning;
these aspects provide the framework for all development and
learning. For example, play is a universal phenomenon across
all cultures (it also extends to other primates). Play, however,
can vary significantly by social and cultural contexts as children
use play as a means of interpreting and making sense of their
experiences.11 Early childhood educators need to understand the
commonalities of children’s development and learning and how
those commonalities take unique forms as they reflect the social
and cultural frameworks in which they occur.



2 Individuality—the characteristics and experiences
unique to each child, within the context of their
family and community, that have implications for
how best to support their development and learning

Early childhood educators have the responsibility of getting to
know each child well, understanding each child as an individual
and as a family and community member. Educators use a variety
of methods—including reflecting on their knowledge of the
community; seeking information from the family; observing the
child; examining the child’s work; and using authentic, valid,
and reliable individual child assessments. Educators understand
that each child reflects a complex mosaic of knowledge and
experiences that contributes to the considerable diversity
among any group of young children. These differences include
the children’s various social identities, interests, strengths, and
preferences; their personalities, motivations, and approaches to
learning; and their knowledge, skills, and abilities related to their
cultural experiences, including family languages, dialects, and
vernaculars. Children may have disabilities or other individual
learning needs, including needs for accelerated learning.
Sometimes these individual learning needs have been diagnosed,
and sometimes they have not.

Early childhood educators recognize this diversity and the
opportunities it offers to support all children’s learning by
recognizing each child as a unique individual with assets
and strengths to contribute to the early childhood education
learning environment.

3 Context—everything discernible about the
social and cultural contexts for each child, each
educator, and the program as a whole

One of the key updates in this revision is the expansion of the
core consideration regarding the social and cultural contexts of
development and learning. As noted in the first core consideration
on commonality, the fact that development and learning are
embedded in social and cultural contexts is true of all individuals.
Context includes both one’s personal cultural context (that is, the
complex set of ways of knowing the world that reflect one’s family
and other primary caregivers and their traditions and values)
and the broader multifaceted and intersecting (for example,
social, racial, economic, historical, and political) cultural contexts
in which each of us live. In both the individual- and societal-
definitions, these are dynamic rather than static contexts that
shape and are shaped by individual members as well as other

Early childhood educators must also be aware that they
themselves—and their programs as a whole—bring their own
experiences and contexts, in both the narrower and broader
definitions, to their decision-making. This is particularly
important to consider when educators do not share the cultural
contexts of the children they serve. Yet even when educators
appear to share the cultural contexts of children, they can
sometimes experience a disconnection between their professional
and cultural knowledge.12

To fully support each child’s optimal development and learning
in an increasingly diverse society, early childhood educators need
to understand the implications of these contexts. By recognizing
that children’s experiences may vary by their social identities (for
example, by race or ethnicity, language, gender, class, ability, family
composition, and economic status, among others), with different
and intersecting impacts on their development and learning,
educators can make adaptations to affirm and support positive
development of each child’s multiple social identities. Additionally,
educators must be aware of, and counter, their own and larger
societal biases that may undermine a child’s positive development
and well-being. Early childhood educators have a professional
responsibility to be life-long learners who are able to foster life-long
learning in children; in this, they must keep abreast of research
developments, while also learning continuously from families and
communities they serve.


Principles of Child Development and Learning
and Implications That Inform Practice
NAEYC’s guidelines and recommendations for developmentally appropriate practice are based on

the following nine principles and their implications for early childhood education professional practice.

These principles reflect an extensive research base that is only partially referenced here.13 Because

these principles are interrelated, this linear list does not fully represent their overall complexity.

1 Development and learning are dynamic processes
that reflect the complex interplay between a child’s
biological characteristics and the environment, each
shaping the other as well as future patterns of growth.

Advances in neuroscience over the last two decades have provided
new insights regarding the processes of early brain development
and their long-term implications for development and learning.
The findings provide robust evidence supporting the importance
of high-quality early learning experiences for young children for
promoting children’s lifelong success.

Neural connections in the brain—which are the basis for all
thought, communication, and learning—are established most
rapidly in early childhood.14 The processes of forming new
neural connections and pruning the neural connections that
are not used continue throughout a person’s lifespan but are
most consequential in the first three years.15 When adults are
sensitive and respond to an infant’s babble, cry, or gesture, they
directly support the development of neural connections that lay
the foundation for children’s communication and social skills,
including self-regulation. These “serve and return” interactions
shape the brain’s architecture.16 They also help educators and
others “tune in” to the infant and better respond to the infant’s
wants and needs.

The interplay of biology and environment, present at birth,
continues through the preschool years and primary grades
(kindergarten through grade 3). This has particular implications
for children who experience adversity. In infancy, for example,
a persistent lack of responsive care results in the infant
experiencing chronic stress that may negatively impact brain
development and may delay or impair the development of
essential systems and abilities, including thinking, learning,
and memory, as well as the immune system and the ability to
cope with stress.17 Living in persistent poverty can also generate
chronic stress that negatively affects the development of brain
areas associated with cognitive and self-regulatory functions.18

No group is monolithic, and data specific to communities
provides a deeper understanding of children’s experiences and
outcomes. It is important to recognize that although children of
all races and ethnicities experience poverty and other adverse
childhood experiences (ACEs), Black and Latino/a children, as
well as children in refugee and immigrant families, children in
some Asian-American families, and children in Native American
families, have been found to be more likely to experience ACEs
than White non-Latino/a and other Asian-American populations
of children,19 reflecting a history of systemic inequities.20
Moreover, racism itself must be recognized not only for its
immediate and obvious impacts on children, but also for its
long-term negative impacts, in which the repetitive trauma
created by racism can predispose individuals to chronic disease.21
It should be noted that these stressors and trauma affect adults as
well as children, including family members and early childhood
educators themselves, who, despite their skills and importance,
often earn wages that place them into poverty.

Some children appear to be more susceptible than others to
the effects of environmental influence—both positive and
negative—reflecting individual differences at play. For children
facing adverse circumstances, including trauma, the buffering
effects of caring, consistent relationships—with family and other
community members but also in high-quality early childhood
programs—are also important to note.22 This emerging science
emphasizes the critical importance of early childhood educators
in providing consistent, responsive, sensitive care and education
to promote children’s development and learning across the full
birth-through-8 age span. The negative impacts of chronic stress
and other adverse experiences can be overcome. High-quality
early childhood education contributes substantially to children’s
resilience and healthy development.



2 All domains of child development—physical
development, cognitive development, social and
emotional development, and linguistic development
(including bilingual or multilingual development), as
well as approaches to learning—are important; each
domain both supports and is supported by the others.

Early childhood educators are responsible for fostering children’s
development and learning in all these domains as well as in general
learning competencies and executive functioning, which include
attention, working memory, self-regulation, reasoning, problem
solving, and approaches to learning. There is considerable overlap
and interaction across these domains and competencies. For
example, sound nutrition, physical activity, and sufficient sleep
all promote children’s abilities to engage in social interactions
that, in turn, stimulate cognitive growth. Children who experience
predictable, responsive relationships and responsive interactions
with adults also tend to demonstrate improved general learning
competencies and executive functioning.23

Changes in one domain often impact other areas and highlight
each area’s importance. For example, as children begin to crawl
or walk, they gain new possibilities for exploring the world. This
mobility in turn affects both their cognitive development and their
ability to satisfy their curiosity, underscoring the importance of
adaptations for children with disabilities that limit their mobility.
Likewise, language development influences a child’s ability to
participate in social interaction with adults and other children;
such interactions, in turn, support further language development
as well as further social, emotional, and cognitive development.
Science is clear that children can learn multiple languages as
easily as one, given adequate exposure and practice, and this
process brings cognitive advantages.24 In groups in which children
speak different home languages, educators may not be able to
speak each language, but they can value and support maintaining
all languages.25

A growing body of work demonstrates relationships between social,
emotional, executive function, and cognitive competencies26 as well
as the importance of movement and physical activity.27 These areas
of learning are mutually reinforcing and all are critical in educating
young children across birth through age 8. Intentional teaching
strategies, including, and particularly, play (both self-directed and
guided), address each domain. Kindergartens and grades 1-3 tend
to be considered elementary or primary education, and, as such,
may have increasingly prioritized cognitive learning at the expense
of physical, social, emotional, and linguistic development. But
integrating cognitive, emotional, social, interpersonal skills and
self-regulatory competencies better prepares children for more
challenging academic content and learning experiences.28 In brief,
the knowledge base documents the importance of a comprehensive
curriculum and the interrelatedness of the developmental domains
for all young children’s well-being and success.

3 Play promotes joyful learning that fosters self-
regulation, language, cognitive and social competencies
as well as content knowledge across disciplines. Play
is essential for all children, birth through age 8.

Play (e.g., self-directed, guided, solitary, parallel, social,
cooperative, onlooker, object, fantasy, physical, constructive, and
games with rules) is the central teaching practice that facilitates
young children’s development and learning. Play develops young
children’s symbolic and imaginative thinking, peer relationships,
language (English and/or additional languages), physical
development, and problem-solving skills. All young children need
daily, sustained opportunities for play, both indoors and outdoors.
Play helps children develop large-motor and fine-motor physical
competence, explore and make sense of their world, interact with
others, express and control their emotions, develop symbolic
and problem-solving abilities, and practice emerging skills.
Consistently, studies find clear links between play and foundational
capacities such as working memory, self-regulation, oral language
abilities, social skills, and success in school.29

Indeed, play embodies the characteristics of effective development
and learning described in principles 4 and 5—active, meaningful
engagement driven by children’s choices. Researchers studying the
pedagogy of play have identified three key components: choice
(the children’s decisions to engage in play, as well as decisions
about its direction and its continuation), wonder (children’s
continued engagement as they explore, gather information, test
hypotheses, and make meaning), and delight (the joy and laughter
associated with the pleasure of the activity, making discoveries,
and achieving new things).30 Play also typically involves social
interaction with peers and/or adults.

Although adults can be play partners (for example, playing
peekaboo with an infant) or play facilitators (by making a
suggestion to extend the activity in a certain way), the more
that the adult directs an activity or interaction, the less likely it
will be perceived as play by the child. When planning learning
environments and activities, educators may find it helpful to
consider a continuum ranging from children’s self-directed play
to direct instruction.31 Neither end of the continuum is effective
by itself in creating a high-quality early childhood program.
Effective, developmentally-appropriate practice does not mean
simply letting children play in the absence of a planned learning
environment, nor does it mean predominantly offering …

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