Early childhood programs have a profound effect on a child’s development. From gross motor skills to language and literacy, the early learning environment plays a pivotal role in the growth and changes of a young child.
As an early childhood provider, you have special responsibilities for the growth and development of the children in your care. Your job is to give children experiences that will help them grow. By understanding normal development, you can help explain to parents why their children act the way they do. You can also tell when a child’s development is not quite right. Because you see many different children in your work, you might notice things that parents will not.
Remember that you and the parents need to work together to understand and support children’s development. You will understand a child better if you talk to the parents about what the child does at home. The parents will understand the child better if they talk with you about what the child does in childcare. Teamwork can be a powerful tool to help children grow and develop in positive ways!
Children need regular, age-appropriate experiences in each of these domains to maximize their success later in life. Review these reminders from the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) for empirically-based principles to consider as you implement developmentally-appropriate practices in your early childhood program.
Developmentally Appropriate Practices in Early Childhood Programs Serving Children from Birth through Age 8
- Domains of children’s development — physical, social, emotional, and cognitive — are closely related. Development in one domain influences and is influenced by development in other domains.
- Development occurs in a relatively orderly sequence, with later abilities, skills, and knowledge building on those already acquired.
- Development proceeds at varying rates from child to child as well as unevenly within different areas of each child’s functioning.
- Early experiences have both cumulative and delayed effects on individual children’s development; optimal periods exist for certain types of development and learning.
- Development proceeds in predictable directions toward greater complexity, organization, and internalization.
- Development and learning occur in and are influenced by multiple social and cultural contexts.
- Children are active learners, drawing on direct physical and social experience as well as culturally transmitted knowledge to construct their own understandings of the world around them.
- Development and learning result from interaction of biological maturation and the environment, which includes both the physical and social worlds that children live in.
- Play is an important vehicle for children’s social, emotional, and cognitive development, as well as a reflection of their development.
- Development advances when children have opportunities to practice newly acquired skills as well as when they experience a challenge just beyond the level of their present mastery.
- Children demonstrate different modes of knowing and learning and different ways of representing what they know.
- Children develop and learn best in the context of a community where they are safe and valued, their physical needs are met, and they feel psychologically secure.
What else does this mean for your early childhood program? Learn more about Developmental Milestones