Care: What Does It Mean?
The term developmentally appropriate care
is commonly used by child care professionals to describe care that takes
into account the level of physical, social, emotional, and intellectual
development of a child.
While there is no one right way to care for
children, there are guidelines that focus on how a child develops and the
care that is appropriate at various stages. These guidelines help both
child care providers and parents understand ways to care for children
while helping them develop positive self-esteem.
The following guidelines have been
developed by early childhood and child care professionals. These
guidelines focus on the idea of developmental appropriateness which is
defined in two parts:
1. age appropriateness or the
universal, predictable sequences of growth and change that occur in
children as they go through their early years of life; and
2. individual appropriateness or the
unique growth sequence of each child with their own pattern and timing, as
well as individual personality, learning style, and family background
Appropriate Care for
Infants and Toddlers
Infants and toddlers learn by experiencing
the environment - by seeing, hearing, tasting, smelling, feeling, and by
physically moving around. They learn a sense of trust through interaction
with consistent, caring adults.
Adults not only meet physical needs but
spend time holding, playing, and talking with the infant. The adult helps
the infant learn by pointing out things to look at, touch, and hear.
Toilet training, feeding, and dressing are
taught without criticism and provide opportunities to let the child do for
themselves. Homes and centers are "child-proofed" to allow the
child safe exploration.
For two-year-olds, simple books, pictures,
puzzles and music are provided. Time and space for jumping, running and
dancing are arranged. Language skills are encouraged by describing to the
child what the child is doing, repeating new words and reading aloud.
Adults know that children in this age group cannot understand the idea of
Appropriate Care for
Three-, Four- and Five-year-olds
Three-year-olds are provided with learning
activities that emphasize language, large motor physical activity, and
movement. Activities include puzzles and blocks, wheel toys and climbers,
dramatic play acting and story telling.
Four-year-olds enjoy a greater variety of
experiences and more activities like cutting paper and fabric, other art
activities and cooking. They can recognize shapes, colors, and use basic
math and problem-solving skills.
Some four-year-olds and most five-year-olds
combine ideas, have a growing memory and are developing fine motor skills.
They display a growing interest in the written language. They are
developing an interest in the community and enjoy special events and
Adults listen, encourage creative play,
join in activities, build self-esteem, and set consistent limits.
Appropriate Equipment and Space Guidelines
Infants benefit from the following
equipment: crib, play yard, infant seat, high chair, waterproof mattress,
and changing table. Infants need colorful pictures, objects they can grab
and hit (such as crib gyms), and soft objects they can learn to pick up.
Older infants need safe space for rolling, sitting, and crawling.
Toddlers use the same things as infants
plus they need safe crawl space and room when taking those first steps.
Most toddlers play alone. Look for easy ways for them to move from one
space to another.
Toddlers love to explore. Good toys at this
age are containers filled with blocks, pull toys, and stacking containers.
Preschoolers need more space. Play spaces
should be varied. In addition, they need active as well as quiet spaces.
They should also have a place to store personal items. A child-size toilet
or potty chair and a way to wash their own hands are also helpful. They
work both individually and in small groups and are beginning to like to be
in larger groups too.
Preschoolers need a variety of toys for
play. Art materials, puzzles, toys that produce sounds, and tricycles are
typical equipment for this age.
Appropriate Care to Prepare Your Child for School
Some child care centers and family child
care homes promote teaching your child skills that prepare them for
school. While early academic learning gives children skills, there is
little evidence that children show long-term benefit in school
performance. Some research shows that too much emphasis on structured
learning at an early age causes children to be less interested in school.
There are, however, a number of
non-academic skills your child can develop both at home and in child care
to prepare them for school. These include the following:
- Observing or the ability to notice
specific things in nature and to understand what other people are
- Listening, knowing what sounds mean, and
being able to repeat sounds.
- Following directions in order to
accomplish simple tasks and knowing left from right.
- Classifying and sorting items by shape,
color, size, etc. and the ability to tell you why objects are similar
- Remembering and telling you about recent
activities and being able to play games that require memory skills.
- Creating and playing pretend games;
feeling comfortable with doing things differently from other children.
- Cooperating and understanding how to
work with others without being overly competitive.
General Features of
Developmentally Appropriate Care
Child care providers that practice
developmentally appropriate care have the following list of
- are patient and supportive with
- promote creativity, discovery, and
- encourage children to take initiative in
- understand the individual capabilities
- interact with the children by talking to
them as well as listening to what they have to say:
- allow children to do things for
- offer choices of activities and
- set and enforce reasonable limits; and
- are willing to use different methods of
care to meet each child's abilities and needs.
Reprinted with permission from the National
Network for Child Care - NNCC. Sprain, J. (1990). Developmentally
Appropriate Care: What Does It Mean? Internet. Minnesota Extension