Are the activities you are “pinning” developmentally appropriate practice?

All early childhood educators strive to demonstrate what is considered developmentally appropriate practice every day in their programs. Step Up To Quality in Ohio and STARS for KIDS NOW in Kentucky rate our programs to ensure we are living and breathing what researcher’s have proven to be best practice. One of the hurdles programs may be facing is selecting and executing a curriculum that best suits their program and the children’s needs. As the curriculum is settling into place, educators plan activities based on the individual skill levels and the interests of the children. As we know, children develop different skills at different times. The range of development is very broad in the early childhood years. So how do we plan curriculum activities that meet all these different development levels?

According to the National Association for the Education of Young Children, basing your curriculum around open-ended activities is a great way to ensure every child can be successful yet challenged at the same time. Open-ended activities have intentional teaching strategies that serve a purpose and have goals. These types of activities provide children with more learning opportunities. They foster scientific inquiries, promote creativity, enhance social skills, build self confidence, and create a passion to learn.

This is an example of an open-ended activity. There is no end

This is an example of an open-ended activity. There is no end “product” in mind. Children are learning about mixing color, developing fine motor skills—and so much more!

When discussing curriculum planning and classroom activities out in the field of early childhood education, many teachers inform me they use Pinterest as a resource. Yes, Pinterest may have many “cute” ideas or art activities but they may not presented in an open-ended way. Unfortunately, some of these activities are surrounded by modeled art, which focuses on the end product of an art project, not the child’s ability to be creative, explore, and learn. Plus, let’s face it, my end product as an adult never looks as well as the end product on Pinterest! So why are we holding children to this Pinterest standard? What is the purpose? What are the goals? Many of these activities have no purpose or goals surrounding them, they’re just cute. Many of these activities are not truly based on the current interest of the children in your classroom, they’re just cute. Many of these activities are not cognitively inspired by the children in your classroom, they’re just cute. Many of these activities do not challenge children to a higher level thinking process; again, they’re just cute. I do understand there may be some activities on pinterest that are more open-ended than others. I encourage educators who may be using pinterest to seek out those activities that have a purpose and are focused on learning objectives and goals. Some activities can even be altered to be more open-ended, meeting the varying developmental skill levels of the children in your classroom.

When you are looking for new activity ideas for your classroom, consider the following:

  • Is there a purpose or a goal?
  • Is it something the children in your classroom would enjoy, based on your observations of their current interests?
  • Does it challenge the children to a higher level thinking process?
  • Does it meet the varying developmental skill levels of the children in your classroom?
  • If it is product art, could the activity be altered to be more open-ended?

Our goal in this field is to strive for what is considered developmentally appropriate practice, provide high-quality programs in early childhood education, and ignite a passion in children for becoming lifelong learners. Please carefully select activities with a purpose, learning objectives, and goals, not only because it is cute on Pinterest.

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About Tracy Schnirring

I am a professional development specialist at 4C for Children My main role is supporting preschool teachers through classroom coaching to best practice and Step Up To Quality (Ohio’s star-rating system). I am also certified to conduct program/child assessments and facilitate several workshops for 4C. In addition to my role at 4C, I am a daughter, sister, aunt, friend, and mother. The person who brings me the most joy in life is my 7-year-old boy. Outside of work, I enjoy spending time with family and friends, playing sports with my son, and being outdoors.