Think about your favorite subject or lesson you have ever taught. If you are a new teacher, think back to your favorite lesson you experienced as a student. What about it was memorable? Do you remember what you learned from it? How old were you? What about the experience was so engaging? For me, I remember working with a group of 3-5 year old students who had very diverse needs but a common interest: building. We had just read The Three Little Pigs and they were convinced the best way to build a house was to use bricks. I ran to the home improvement store near school the next day and bought a few dozen bricks with which to explore. They stacked them tall, one on top of the other, on the carpeted area of the classroom. They soon found out they couldn’t stack them as tall as they had hoped. I worked for about thirty minutes every day to try and plan experiences that challenged their thinking--what would it look like to build with straw? With sticks? Could I think of any videos that challenged their brick ideas? How could I make this a hands-on, engaging, age-appropriate experience safely, without me telling them what to do? How could I support them in discovering new solutions, drafting new hypotheses, and finding ways to test out their ideas?
This is, in essence, what planning developmentally appropriate lessons looks like in early childhood. It does not happen by accident--it involves thinking, planning, trying new things, and thinking creatively. Additionally, it involves ways for young children to discover new ideas, supported by the materials and experiences you plan. This is not always easy. It is not easy to let go of control of a lesson and provide the knowledge you want children to have. From a constructivist point of view, young children learn by doing, experiencing frustration and tension, and having a sense of accomplishment when they solve a problem. This comes from planning meaningful, relevant investigations that dig deeper into concepts instead of planning themes across all domains (literacy, math, science, gross motor, etc.) While all of these domains may be included in an investigation, it is not a requirement.
See the attached document for the National Association for the Education of Young Children’s (NAEYC) statement on three core considerations for developmentally appropriate practice.