The Five Developmental Domains

group of children holding hands in a park

The Five Developmental Domains and
Developmentally Appropriate Practices

toddler throwing a ball

Physical Development

Over the course of early childhood, children transition from walking to crawling and running – and then to balancing and kicking and throwing. In addition to these gross motor skills, they gradually acquire fine motor skills, which allow them to pick up and hold small objects or to handle a pen or pencil.

preschool girl with scissors and playdough

DAP for Physical Development

Children acquire physical skills at differing rates, so you'll need to provide plenty of options when it comes to physical activities. For instance, offering different sized balls in an outside play area will allow children of all abilities to practice kicking and throwing a ball.

You can practice fine motor skills inside by stringing beads – just be sure to offer a selection of larger beads (or even dried rigatoni noodles) for children who do not yet have the coordination to play with small beads.

Children reading book with teacher

Personal and Social Development

As children develop, they gradually establish friendships and learn to cooperate and play collaboratively with one another.

toddler eating spaghetti with a fork

Personal and Social Development

Adaptive development also falls in this domain. Adaptive development refers to a child's ability to do basic life skills – like dressing himself, using the toilet or eating with a fork.

children playing together with doll house

DAP for Personal and Social Development

You can promote social development by providing the children in your care with multiple opportunities for small group activities. Here, a dollhouse brings together children of different ages and social development levels.

Caregivers should also model friendly, empathetic behavior and should encourage children to work through interpersonal conflicts independently whenever possible.

children eating

DAP for Personal and Social Development

The children in your care will likely cover a broad range of adaptive development. Some will be toilet trained while others may have no interest in toilet training at all. Similarly, at meal time you might discover a variety of eating styles and abilities. For shared snacks, be sure to provide liquids in cups for those who are ready to drink from cups, and sippy cups or bottles for others. Similarly, children should have access to forks and spoons depending on their preference.

preschool girl working on a wooden puzzle

Cognitive Development

Children's brains go through incredible development during early childhood as they learn to count, sort objects by size and color, and read and write.

preschool boy writing letters on whiteboard

DAP for Cognitive Development

When planning activities geared towards cognitive development, keep in mind that the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) recommends planning for an age and ability range that spans one year younger and one year older than your target group.

For lessons involving letters, for instance, this might mean creating a "writing station" with pencils and paper for more advanced children and letter stamps or magnets for children who just want to play with the letters.

children playing in park

Language Development

Children develop language skills at different rates; one 2 year old may barely speak while another barks out orders to anyone who will listen. Still another may be learning English in addition to another language.

Children making art activity with teacher

DAP for Language Development

Talking to, and with, the children in your care will encourage their own verbal development. For pre-verbal kids, you can use basic sign language to communicate important concepts like "more," "milk" or "all done."