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ECE Curriculum & Instruction - 5.5 Weeks

ECE Curriculum & Instruction

Explore this page for research, writing, and assignment assistance while completing your course work. 

If you have questions or comments about this page, please contact Tammy Hopps, Learning Services Coordinator for the Schools of Education and General Education.

Use the tabs at the top of this box to navigate. 

DAP: Developmentally Appropriate Practice

What is DAP?

DAP refers to providing an environment and offering content, materials, activities, and methodologies that are coordinated with a child's level of development and for which the individual child is ready. Three dimensions of appropriateness must be considered:

  • DAP is a central concept in the world of education and means teaching in ways that the child learns best. 




Why is it such a big deal?

When our best practices are developmentally appropriate, we are maximizing the learning opportunities for children.  When our practices are NOT DAP, we may actually be 'getting in the way' of children's learning. 

Example: If an Early Childhood Educator is expecting toddlers to be able to sit still for a 20 minute group time, he/she will likely see toddlers moving around and trying to leave the circle because this expectation is NOT developmentally appropriate for children this age (see #1 above Age appropriateness).



 This is foundational knowledge for other ECE concepts. How will you remember it?  How will you study to learn it?

Practical Applications of DAP in Early Childhood Education

CHECK FOR UNDERSTANDING: What is DAP and what are the components?
Teaching the ways that teachers teach best: 1. Ages & stages 2. Individual variation 3. Cultural & social context: 34 votes (13.39%)
Teaching the ways children learn best; 1. Ages & stages 2. Cultural & social context: 24 votes (9.45%)
Teaching the ways parents find beneficial; 1. Ages & stages 2. Individual variation 3. Cultural & social context: 9 votes (3.54%)
Teaching the ways children learn best; 1. Ages & stages 2. Individual variation 3. Cultural & social context: 187 votes (73.62%)
Total Votes: 254

PILES: The Developmental Domains

What are the PILES?

 How are you going to remember what the letters in PILES stand for?  How will you study to learn them?

Other Course Concepts

Module 1: Early Childhood Transitions and Routines

How well do you cope with change?  When you have made detailed plans for something and something happens that suddenly changes things, how well do you handle that?




Module 3: Selecting Early Early Childhood Curriculum & Instructional Strategies


Module 4: The Importance of Culturally Appropriate Practices 

What goes into culturally responsive teaching?  One aspect is the necessity to extend beyond your own experiences to learn about others' experiences. We need to grow.  BUT....

Growth can be uncomfortable--You are outside of your comfort zone when you are learning things that are new to you.  When working with young children and their families, you will likely find some things that they do are different from the way you were raised. You may have had very different experiences.  That's okay. Now you need to take a step further...

Realize that you are seeing things through YOUR FILTER.  Learn to see things from multiple filters (critical thinking).  See things from other families' perspectives and experiences. 

This is essential to culturally responsive teaching.

Module 4: Is the Equipment and the Environment DAP?

The Educators may choose the equipment and materials for an early childhood environment, but the space is essentially meant for the children--It is actually their space to use and to learn in/from.  It's important to be able to see from a child's perspective, both literally and figuratively.  


Literally: What does a child see?  What materials are at their eye level?  Try getting down on your hands and knees to see from their level.  

Figuratively: Think of their PILES development as you do this. E.g. P (Physical development)--How will they use the blocks?I (intellectual development)--Is this numbers activity too hard for them to understand?


CHECK FOR UNDERSTANDING: Using the concepts and component terms of DAP and PILES, explain which environment is DAP for a 3-year-old and why.


Module 5: Early Childhood Environments

A 'YES' environment is one that maximizes learning and development in children.  It invites children to play and learn, thereby promoting their growth and development in the PILES domains (Physical, Intellectual, Language, Emotional/Social).  The equipment and materials are Developmentally Appropriate (DAP) and the room is arranged to encourage interaction and learning.  Review the graphic below from Module 3: 


Module 6: Developing a Relationship with Families & the Community

Many things contribute to and influence a child's growth and development. Having an active knowledge of a child's family info provides you with what you need to support that child learning process.  

The Course Project


These projects are designed to walk you through one step at a time.  Each step builds on the one before it. If you concentrate on each step and complete it on schedule, things will be just fine!


Module 1: Which age group will you choose for your project?

 - Child Care Center: Infants (Birth to 6 months old)

 - Child Care Center: Mobile Infants (6 months to 1 year old)

 - Child Care Center: Young Toddlers (1 year to 2.5 years old)

 - Child Care Center: Preschoolers (2.5 years to 5 years old)

 - Family Child Care: Mixed Ages 

Floor Plans

     The way you choose to arrange furniture has a gigantic impact on the children's learning.  The environment (including room arrangement) is part of the curriculum. So, the question is, how can we arrange areas that will maximize the children's learning?  As you know, there's a lot to consider. 

     Take a look at the 2 floor plans below and consider the pros and cons from 2 perspectives: 1) from the perspective of an educator who wants to maximize learning and 2) from the perspective of a young child who would use that space.

Floor Plan 1 

Some things to consider:

Lots of open space in the middle of the room can lead to running and unplanned large muscle activities (like wrestling).

Activity areas are quite close together. This may lead to strained social interactions between chidlren.

Some of the quieter activity areas are next to louder activity areas (e.g.  Library area next to the Large Movement climber).





Floor Plan 2 

Some things to consider:

Areas have room for children to play and interact without overcrowding. Promotes positive social interactions between children

Art and Science/Sensory areas are on the tile near water source and clean up is easier.

Traffic flow is not in a straight line so children to capture attention as they walk near areas.





Materials & Equipment Plan--Creating a 'Yes' Environment

Choosing DAP (developmentally appropriate) materials and equipment is essential to creating a "Yes" environment for learning.  A "Yes" environment is one that 'tells' the children this is their space.  DAP materials and equipment are at their level and are accessible.  It is designed to meet their needs in all of the developmental domains. 


Part of knowing what is and isn't developmentally appropriate depends on the developmental domains (PILES).  

For instance, in terms of Physical development (the 'P' in PILES), infants are very different from 4-year-olds (preschool age). 

Example: A 4-year-old can do more with his fingers (small muscles) like holding a fat marker while an infant doesn't yet have that same level of development with his hands and fingers.  Knowing that will help you choose materials and equipment that are appropriate for each age and developmental stage.


CHECK FOR UNDERSTANDING: Which item is DAP for Infants?
1.: 10 votes (5.62%)
2.: 3 votes (1.69%)
3.: 5 votes (2.81%)
4.: 160 votes (89.89%)
Total Votes: 178

  Do you remember the 3 components of DAP and the names of the Developmental Domains (PILES)? If so, WONDERFUL!  If not, revisit Modules 1 and 2.  Study to understand that material. Check out study strategies in the Student Success Guide

Social & Emotional Development

Part of healthy social and emotional development for a child includes being aware of and identifying his/her feelings.  These skills open the door to self-regulation, self-soothing, management of emotions, and positive social interactions with others.   


Learning Resources

Learning Resources

Build your learning skills with the Student Success Guide

Working with a Tutor can help you save a lot of time and work smarter not harder.  Here's info about connecting with a tutor using Tutor Match.

What are the best ways to study the material for this course?

How can you create a system to get everything done on time?

Find resources of all kinds in the Writing Guide!