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What early childhood educators know about developmentally appropriate practice: Teaching young children requires and understanding of the interactions among typical patterns of child development, children’s individual characteristics, and their social and cultural contexts


In the 1980s, at a time when education policy makers appeared to be intent on “pushing down” the elementary grades curriculum into the preK years, particularly with a focus on math, reading, and other academic content and skills, the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) — the largest professional organization in the field of early education — set out to articulate its distinct mission and principles. Building on decades of research and practice in early care and education, the resulting position statement, Developmentally Appropriate Practice (DAP), provided much-needed guidance to professionals working with children up to eight years in age (NAEYC, 1987). Teachers of young children, the document argued, must approach their work with compassion, curiosity (Thompson, Geneser, & Walker, in press), and careful attention to two core considerations: young children’s most typical ages and stages of development (their commonalities) and each child’s unique developmental needs (their individuality). (author abstract)

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