Ever try to reason with a toddler in the middle of a full-blown tantrum? What you quickly realize is that not only are they super loud but bribing, pleading, threatening “time outs” and raising your voice are all useless acts of desperation.

The most effective approach is to get down to eye level and talk in a quiet calm voice. Meeting the child where they are is a powerful act of communication that expresses respect and validation for their emotions.

Developmentally Appropriate Practice takes that concept of respect and acknowledgement of where children are emotionally and cognitively and brings it into the classroom. The mission of D.A.P is not only to engage children by understanding what works best for every stage of development, but by doing so to create equity in education for all children. It is more than just an educational practice – it is a worldview. Think of it as a way to fully engage and educate each individual child as a unique learner.

D.A.P. come naturally to teachers and that is why it is so effective. It springs from the same desire to communicate, help others understand and grow that drive many people into education in the first place. Best of all it doesn’t require an extra course or added training but just a willingness and understanding of the principles.Here are some tips on D.A.P that you can start using today:

  • Let art activities be open ended. Avoid the use of coloring dittos. By letting children express themselves as individuals, you are meeting them where they are.
  • Let experiences be hands on. Instead of looking at pictures of colors, bring in different things in the outside world that represent those colors. Teach addition and fractions through cooking activities.
  • Instead of making music and art be separate activities find ways to weave them into all the curriculum areas.
  • Have children try to solve their own problems rather than trying to solve problems for them.
  • Teach children to create, rather than duplicate.
  • Talk to your students about what they love. Discover what they are interested in learning and filter your curriculum through those passions.
  • Instead of filling in workbooks, encourage students to write their own books.
  • Let kids ask questions rather than listen to facts by adults.
    Serve meals and snacks family style. This encourages communication, sharing and manners.
  • Do activities in small groups rather than in one large group.

Children learn when they are involved. Developmentally appropriate practices help meet children where they are and speak to the whole child. Introduce a few changes at a time and watch how children become active, engaged and happy learners.