“Developmentally Appropriate”

This refers to teachers creating new curriculum, depending on how their students can perform emotionally, cognitively, and physically by a certain age. Not every child develops at the same speed, so teachers must think about their students’ range of abilities. For example, if one child cannot tie their shoes yet but his or her classmates can, they may all fall into a developmentally appropriate range of ability.


Child’s Abilities at Different Stages

Kindergartners (typically four to five-year-olds) should be able to walk up stairs, skip, share toys and count objects. A first grader learns to see patterns in words and numbers. They can hold a pencil, and they can respond better in social situations.

As children grow, they are expected to make progress in several realms, both cognitively and physically. They will be better able to interact socially with other students and accept more responsibility and self-control. They will also be able to figure out more difficult concepts with a certain amount of ease.


Using Developmentally Appropriate Practices in Creating Lesson Plans

If a teacher has a student still learning a fairly basic concept while other students have learned to master that skill, the teacher knows they will have to implement a DAP (developmentally appropriate practice) as they create lesson plans. This can be a challenge to achieve if the teacher works within a traditional classroom. Using a DAP means they have to tailor each lesson plan to each student’s individual needs.

Ideally, teachers should be able to personalize how they teach the same concept to each student. Incorporating DAPs in lesson planning allows younger students to benefit from a more ideal learning environment.


Areas to Consider

  • Knowing what a child should be able to do at each stage of development. This helps teachers fine tune their lesson planning according to their students’ needs.
  • Knowing what is developmentally appropriate for each individual student. Teachers can determine developmental readiness by examining their students in social situations.
  • The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) recommends including information about a student’s family and cultural background in lesson planning decisions as well.

Teachers should encourage students to get hands-on experience and explore the classroom. Allow children to self-direct. Waldorf schools and Montessori schools, specifically, use DAPs in much of their lesson planning and instruction.