What is DAP?

There’s an old Jewish parable that says if you have 10 Rabbis in a room, you get 11 different opinions. I believe the same is true about early childhood educators and Developmentally Appropriate Practice (DAP). If you ask 10 early childhood educators to define DAP, you’ll probably get 11 different answers.

What is DAP? In it’s simplest form DAP is

  • identifying each child’s developmental level
  • providing experiences that help each child blossom

There are many more detailed and complex descriptions of DAP, but the basics are the same.

Each child has their own developmental journey. As educators, our goal should be to help each child be successful on their journey. Finding the right teaching strategies to support each child’s journey is part of the process. Our challenge is recognizing that a strategy that worked for one child may not work for a different child. Or, strategies that are successful in one setting are not successful in a different setting.

What qualifies as a DAP experience?

  • open-ended
  • everyone can be successful
  • multiple entry points (all children can participate in a way that is comfortable for them)
  • hands-on
  • interesting to the child(ren)
  • active and engaging
  • captures a child’s attention

DAP experiences also include these elements:

  • choices for children
  • opportunities to build language skills
  • opportunities to develop social skills
  • creativity and problem solving

But, I would say that one of the most important elements of DAP is

time

TIME

Children need TIME to play. Children need to TIME to explore. Children need TIME to create and explore and build and take apart. Children need uninterrupted TIME to test out their own theories of how things work. Children need uninterrupted TIME to discover new ideas and explore new materials.  Children need uninterrupted TIME to build relationships with others, both peers and caregivers. Children need uninterrupted TIME to practice new skills and share their ideas. But most of all, children need uninterrupted TIME to just BE!

Let me know your thoughts on DAP. How do you define DAP? Would you add or change any of the elements I’ve listed? What do you consider to be the most important element of DAP? Is it TIME, or is it something else?

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