Research suggests that effective curriculum is rich in opportunities for practicing social, intellectual, academic, and life skills. Curriculum also provides a framework for what children learn. To be appropriate for children from birth through age eight, curriculum must:
  • be challenging but achievable. Activities and experiences build confidence.
  • encourage children to be proud of their abilities and inspire an eagerness to move on to trying the next goal.
  • be important and worthwhile. Interesting concepts hold children's attention and are valuable uses of their time.
  • build on prior knowledge and extend learning.
  • respect both children's home culture and the shared culture of the group.

Teacher Guidelines

When making decisions about developing curriculum or when selecting a new curriculum model, make sure materials and activities:

  • provide for all areas of children's growth and development-physical, emotional, social, linguistic, aesthetic, and cognitive.
  • include a broad range of content that is intellectually engaging, socially relevant to families, and personally meaningful.
  • build on what children know and are able to do-recognizing and organizing knowledge helps children acquire new concepts and skills.
  • (Make sure goals are realistic and attainable for most children in the designated age range of your classroom.)
  • integrate curriculum areas. Help children make meaningful connections.
  • integrate technology, if and when it is used, into classroom experiences.
  • promote children's inner drive and excitement about learning as they use and apply knowledge, processes, and skills.
  • inspire intellectual integrity and children's direct participation. Offer a variety of opportunities and experiences where children play key roles in science experiments, problem solving, collecting and analyzing data, collecting oral histories, role playing, discussions, and so on.
  • support home cultures and languages. Develop children's abilities to understand and participate in both family cultures and the shared culture of your community.

Helping all children achieve success requires that we, as early childhood professionals, provide challenging, interesting, and developmentally appropriate curriculum. Curriculum that adheres to the above guidelines helps to ensure that children will be encouraged to explore a variety of media and materials and to enjoy the richness of a varied and expansive curriculum that responds to their individual needs and strengths.

Next month we'll take a closer look at the fourth guideline, Assessing Children's Learning and Development.

Strategies for Administrators

Here are strategies to help your program develop quality curriculum:

  • Demand the best. Curriculum strategies often water down content and don't provide enough time for children to explore. Help teachers understand that a strong curriculum provides children with an array of appropriate and interesting props and that daily schedules build in long periods of time for play and investigation (this is when children do the real work of learning).
  • Use a mentoring model. An excellent way to help teachers improve is to encourage them to watch an experienced, respectful, and caring colleague at work. Pair teachers up for a few months and allow them to observe in one another's classrooms, discuss ideas, and plan together.
  • Be supportive. Provide professional development Teachers can try out ideas and techniques on a group, ask questions, and give feedback. Teachers need to be challenged and inspired through training. Everyone needs to feel a part o an environment that encourages the same kind c exploration we want to provide for children. Act as a cheerleader and a coach. Let teachers know that you value and respect what they are trying to do. Describe the atmosphere and kinds of interactions you want teachers to model in their classrooms.
  • Build partnerships. As you know, families play a crucial role in the success of your program and, of course, in children's learning. Always foster teachers' respect for parents an help families understand teachers' efforts.


"Developmentally Appropriate Practice in Early Childhood Programs" (revised edition) by Sue Bredekamp and Carol Copple (NAEYC, 1997).

NAEYC Position Statement: "Responding to Linguistic and Cultural Diversity-Recommendations for Effective Early Childhood Education" (NAEYC, 1996).  

NAEYC Position Statement: "Technology and Young ChildrenAges Three Through Eight" (NAEYC,1996). Mentoring and Supervision for Teacher Development" by A.J. Reiman and L. Thies-Sprinthall (Addison-Wesley, 1997; $66.05).  

"Zero to Three Work Group on Supervision and Mentorship: Learning Through Supervision and Mentorship to Support the Development of Infants, Toddlers, and Their Families." In Learning Through Supervision and Mentorship to Support the Development of Infants, Toddlers and Their Families: A Sourcebook, edited by E. Fenichel (National Center for Clinical Infant Programs, 1992; $18.95.