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Developmentally appropriate practice (DAP) refers to ways of teaching and caring for young children from birth through age 8 that effectively promote children’s development and learning in important domains—physical, social, emotional, language, and cognitive development and approaches to learning—by helping children reach challenging but achievable goals. Dimensions of DAP emerged from and continue to be revised according to two main sources: (a) research on children’s learning and development outcomes, and (b) practitioners’ experiences in working with young children.

Professionals in the field of early childhood care and education first articulated dimensions of DAP through publications of the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) in the 1980s, which were written to help teachers create environments that conformed to how young children best develop and ...

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