What is Developmentally Appropriate Practice (DAP)?

Developmentally appropriate practice (DAP) is a framework for early childhood education that is based on the understanding of how children learn and develop. DAP principles and guidelines are designed to help teachers create learning environments that are both challenging and supportive for all children.

The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) defines DAP as “a set of practices that are based on knowledge of how children develop and learn and that are supported by research and professional experience.” The DAP framework includes 12 //www.eduvine.ca/  guide teachers in their work with young children.

The 12 Principles of DAP

  1. The child is a competent learner. Children are naturally curious and eager to learn. They learn best through active exploration and hands-on experiences.
  2. Developmental domains are interrelated. Children’s development occurs in all areas – physical, social-emotional, cognitive, and language – at the same time.
  3. Learning happens in a variety of ways. Children learn through play, exploration, social interaction, and direct instruction.
  4. Teachers are responsible for creating a supportive environment. The environment should be safe, healthy, and stimulating. It should also be culturally responsive and inclusive.
  5. Teachers should use assessment to inform instruction. Assessment should be ongoing and informal. It should be used to plan learning experiences that are appropriate for each child.
  6. Teachers should build relationships with families. Families are children’s first and most important teachers. Teachers should work closely with families to support children’s learning.
  7. Teachers should reflect on their practice. Teachers should regularly reflect on their teaching and make changes as needed.
  8. Teachers should collaborate with other professionals. Teachers should work together with other professionals, such as early childhood specialists and administrators, to provide high-quality early childhood education.
  9. Early learning programs should be inclusive. All children, regardless of their background or abilities, should have access to high-quality early childhood education.
  10. Early learning programs should be affordable. The cost of early childhood education should not be a barrier to participation.
  11. Early learning programs should be supported by public policy. Governments should provide funding and other support for high-quality early childhood education.
  12. Early learning programs should be research-based. The practices used in early childhood education should be based on research about how children learn and develop.

Why is DAP Important?

DAP is important because it ensures that all children have the opportunity to reach their full potential. When teachers follow DAP principles, they create learning environments that are challenging and supportive, and that meet the needs of all children. DAP also helps to ensure that early childhood education is inclusive and equitable.

How to Implement DAP

There are many ways to implement DAP in early childhood education. Some specific strategies include:

  • Creating a safe and healthy environment that is conducive to learning.
  • Providing a variety of materials and experiences that allow children to explore and learn.
  • Building relationships with families and working together to support children’s learning.
  • Reflecting on teaching practices and making changes as needed.
  • Collaborating with other professionals to provide high-quality early childhood education.


DAP is a valuable framework for early childhood education. It is based on sound research and is designed to help all children reach their full potential. If you are interested in learning more about DAP, there are many resources available online and in libraries.