Inappropriate Practices for Preschoolers: What to Avoid in Early Childhood Education

Education is a complex and multifaceted process that plays a pivotal role in shaping the future of individuals and society as a whole. It involves the transfer of knowledge, skills, and values from one generation to another, with the ultimate goal of fostering personal growth and development. However, the effectiveness of education largely depends on the appropriateness of the practices employed. In the case of preschoolers, it’s essential to steer clear of inappropriate practices that hinder their natural curiosity and creativity. Activities such as paper and pencil tasks, rote learning, academically focused work, and large group directed teaching can do more harm than good, stifling the innate abilities and potentials of young children. Instead, it’s crucial to adopt a child-centered approach to education, one that embraces play, exploration, and hands-on experiences as the primary drivers of learning. By avoiding these inappropriate practices, educators can create an environment that fosters a love for learning, ignites curiosity, and sets the stage for lifelong academic and personal success in preschoolers.

What Is the Definition of Developmentally Appropriate Practice?

Describes it as “an approach to teaching that respects both the age and the individual needs of each child.”. It’s based on the understanding that children learn and develop at their own pace, and that their unique characteristics and backgrounds should be taken into account in the learning process.

Developmentally appropriate practice emphasizes the importance of creating a safe and supportive learning environment for children. Teachers and caregivers strive to establish positive relationships with children, providing them with a sense of security and trust. They create learning opportunities that are engaging, meaningful, and relevant to childrens lives, fostering their curiosity and love for learning.

Physical development is also a key aspect of developmentally appropriate practice. It recognizes the importance of providing opportunities for children to develop their gross and fine motor skills through activities like running, jumping, climbing, drawing, and manipulating objects. Teachers and caregivers ensure that the physical environment is safe and accessible, allowing children to explore and engage in physical play.

It’s crucial to engage preschoolers in activities that align with their developmental stage and capture their attention. By observing and embracing their interests, you can create a meaningful and enriching playtime experience. From messy play and dress-ups to outdoor adventures and artistic ventures, there’s a wide array of developmentally appropriate activities to stimulate their curiosity and foster their growth. In this article, we will explore some of the top activities that engage preschoolers and provide invaluable learning opportunities.

What Are Developmentally Appropriate Activities for Preschoolers?

When it comes to engaging preschoolers in developmentally appropriate activities, it’s crucial to take into consideration their individual interests and preferences. By tailoring the playtime experience to their likes, you create an environment that fosters their curiosity and promotes their overall development. One great way to do this is by incorporating messy play into their daily routines. Preschoolers love getting their hands dirty and exploring different textures and materials. From sensory bins filled with rice or pasta to finger painting with colorful and washable paints, messy play allows them to unleash their creativity and develop their fine motor skills simultaneously.

Dress-up activities are another fantastic option for preschoolers as they ignite their imagination and encourage dramatic play. Whether they want to become a princess, superhero, doctor, or firefighter, providing them with costumes and props unleashes their creativity. This type of play also enables them to practice essential social skills such as cooperation, communication, and problem-solving.

Dont underestimate the power of simple, yet meaningful activities like playing with boxes. Preschoolers can transform a box into a car, a spaceship, or even a castle. The possibilities are endless, and this type of play promotes their problem-solving abilities and encourages their cognitive development. Additionally, playing with boxes allows them to think outside the box (pun intended) and encourages open-ended play, which stimulates their imagination.

Outdoor play is essential for preschoolers as it provides them with ample opportunities for physical activity and exploration. From playgrounds to nature walks, the great outdoors provides endless possibilities for engaging and stimulating activities. Whether they’re running, climbing, digging, or exploring, these experiences contribute to their gross motor skills development and foster a sense of wonder and curiosity about the world around them.

Art and craft activities are also valuable for preschoolers, as they enable them to express themselves creatively, develop their fine motor skills, and enhance their cognitive abilities. Painting, drawing, collage-making, and playdough sculpting all provide opportunities for self-expression and experimentation. Encouraging preschoolers to explore different colors, materials, and techniques helps them develop their artistic abilities while simultaneously fostering their cognitive and emotional growth.

Reading is a fundamental activity for preschoolers that promotes their language and literacy development. By reading stories, singing songs, and engaging in interactive discussions, you expose them to new vocabulary, expand their imagination, and cultivate their love for books. It’s important to choose age-appropriate books with colorful illustrations and engaging storylines to capture their attention and make the reading experience enjoyable and rewarding.

Board games are also fantastic for preschoolers as they teach essential social skills such as turn-taking, patience, and cooperation. Simple games like matching cards or counting games allow them to practice their counting, memory, and problem-solving skills while having fun with their peers or family members. These activities not only provide entertainment but also promote their cognitive, emotional, and social development.

By following their interests, incorporating messy play, dress-ups, play with boxes, outdoor play, art and craft, reading, and board games, you create an environment that’s nurturing, stimulating, and fun, facilitating their cognitive, physical, social, and emotional development.

Music and Movement Activities: Preschoolers Love to Dance and Move Their Bodies to Music. Incorporating Music and Movement Activities Into Their Daily Routines Can Help Develop Their Coordination, Rhythm, and Gross Motor Skills.

Engaging preschoolers in music and movement activities is a fun way to help them enhance their motor skills and sense of rhythm. By including these activities in their daily routines, they can improve their coordination, rhythm, and overall physical development.

Source: Preschoolers at play – Raising Children Network

During the preschool years, one of the examples of developmentally appropriate practices for preschoolers is fostering positive and nurturing relationships with adults. This involves engaging in responsive conversations with individual children, modeling reading and writing behavior, and fostering their interest and enjoyment of reading and writing. However, there are other aspects of developmentally appropriate practice for preschoolers that go beyond this.

What Are Examples of Developmentally Appropriate Practice for Preschoolers?

During the preschool years, there are several examples of developmentally appropriate practices for preschoolers. One crucial aspect is the establishment of positive and nurturing relationships with adults. Preschoolers thrive in an environment where they can engage in responsive conversations with caring adults who actively listen and respond to their thoughts and ideas. These conversations play a significant role in fostering language development and cognitive growth.

Modeling reading and writing behavior is another example of developmentally appropriate practice for preschoolers. Adults who actively engage in reading and writing activities provide a valuable foundation for childrens literacy skills. By observing adults reading books or writing notes, preschoolers gain an understanding of the purpose and enjoyment of reading and writing.

Furthermore, it’s essential to foster childrens interest and enjoyment of reading and writing. Preschoolers are naturally curious and imaginative. Educators and caregivers can provide a wide range of age-appropriate books, literacy-rich environments, and engaging writing materials to spark childrens interest. This can be done through storytelling, interactive reading experiences, and creative writing activities that allow preschoolers to express their thoughts and ideas in a supportive and playful atmosphere.

Another developmentally appropriate practice is to provide opportunities for hands-on exploration and play. Young children learn best through play and active engagement with their environment. Preschoolers benefit from activities that allow them to manipulate objects, problem-solve, and engage in imaginative play. This type of play encourages the development of cognitive, social, and emotional skills, as children learn to negotiate, communicate, and collaborate with their peers.

Promoting independence and self-help skills is also an important aspect of developmentally appropriate practice for preschoolers. Preschoolers are at an age where they’re trying to assert their independence and develop basic self-care skills. Encouraging them to engage in age-appropriate tasks such as dressing themselves, putting away their toys, and using utensils during mealtime fosters a sense of autonomy and self-confidence.

Lastly, a developmentally appropriate practice is to provide a well-rounded and inclusive curriculum. Integrating these subjects into daily activities helps children develop a holistic view of the world and promotes their overall development. Additionally, it’s crucial to create an inclusive environment that celebrates diversity and respects individual differences, ensuring that all preschoolers feel valued and supported in their learning journey.

In a developmentally appropriate preschool classroom, you’ll see a focus on respectful, frequent, and responsive interactions between teachers and children. The environment is designed to promote engagement, with children being offered choices and opportunities to make decisions. This encourages them to be active participants in their own learning and development.

What Should You See in Developmentally Appropriate Preschool Classrooms?

In a developmentally appropriate preschool classroom, one of the first things you’ll notice is a focus on respectful, frequent, and responsive interactions. Teachers and staff are trained to treat children with the utmost respect, engaging in conversations that validate their thoughts and feelings. Furthermore, these interactions aren’t sporadic, but rather occur frequently throughout the day. Teachers take the time to listen to children, respond to their questions, and foster open lines of communication.

Another noticeable feature of these classrooms is that children are offered choices and given opportunities to make decisions. Rather than being told what to do at all times, children are empowered to make their own choices within reasonable boundaries. This encourages independence and autonomy, allowing children to learn from their own experiences and build decision-making skills.

Additionally, children in developmentally appropriate preschool classrooms are active participants in their own learning. You’ll see them engaged in hands-on activities, exploring materials, and asking questions. There’s a palpable sense of curiosity in these classrooms, as teachers create environments that promote exploration and discovery. From sensory tables to art stations, children have the freedom to explore various learning areas and follow their interests.

Furthermore, a developmentally appropriate preschool classroom values the individuality and uniqueness of every child. Teachers recognize that each child develops at their own pace and has their own strengths and challenges. Therefore, they provide differentiated instruction to meet the diverse needs of their students. Children aren’t all expected to perform at the same level or achieve the same goals. Instead, teachers tailor their lessons and activities to cater to the individual needs of each child, fostering a sense of accomplishment and self-esteem.

Lastly, a developmentally appropriate preschool classroom is filled with a balance of structure and flexibility. While there are routines and schedules in place, allowing children to understand expectations and feel secure, there’s also room for flexibility and spontaneity. Teachers understand that young children thrive in an environment that provides both predictability and opportunities for exploration. The classroom is structured in a way that supports childrens self-regulation and encourages them to take risks in their learning.

Through respectful and responsive interactions, opportunities for choices and decision-making, active participation, individualized instruction, and a balanced structure, children are provided with an optimal setting for their early education.


In conclusion, it’s clear that inappropriate practices for preschoolers, such as paper and pencil activities, rote learning, academically focused work, and large group directed teaching, don’t align with the true essence of education. Education isn’t solely about imparting knowledge, but also about nurturing skills and character traits in a way that enhances the overall development and growth of the student. These ineffective practices limit children's creativity, curiosity, and engagement, ultimately hindering their ability to thrive and reach their full potential. A more holistic and child-centered approach to early childhood education is essential, where hands-on, play-based experiences are emphasized, individualized instruction is offered, and the unique interests, strengths, and needs of each child are recognized and catered to. It’s crucial to remember that education should always aim for improvement, not only in terms of academic performance, but also in fostering a love for learning, social-emotional development, and lifelong skills that will prepare children for the challenges and opportunities of the future.

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