Avoiding the “billiards dilemma” using Developmentally Appropriate Practices

By Laken Dillow, United Way of Southwest Virginia

What does early childcare have to do with the game of billiards? Well, the two are far more similar than you would probably imagine.

Sherry Barnard, Childhood Success Coordinator at United Way of Southwest Virginia, shared some insight on Developmentally Appropriate Practice (DAP) at a Virginia Quality Professional Development Training. Each training offers on-site workshops that provides educators and childcare professionals with the opportunity to learn and develop practical goals and strategies that benefit all children in their care.

Funded by the Virginia Department of Social Services, Virginia Quality leads the way for high-quality early education for our youngest Virginians by setting standards for quality and providing a path for continuous quality improvement at child care centers, preschools and family child care homes across the Commonwealth of Virginia.

So back to the similarities between billiards and early child care. When you play the game of billiards, your goal is to bounce the cue ball off the pyramid to place either a striped or solid ball into a pocket.

Imagine this – your cue ball breaks the pyramid apart, instantly scattering the outer most balls across the table. What happens to the balls in the middle of the pyramid?? More than likely, those balls will not reach the pockets. Because of your linear method of aiming directly at one place, you’re less likely to effectively reach ALL of the balls.

Similarly, if your childcare methods are always linear, you are less likely to impact EVERY child. According to Sherry, many preschool teachers and childcare providers tend to think that if they make a lesson plan, all students will benefit. But that is not always the case.

Nicole Brewer is one of many early childcare providers participating in Virginia Quality. According to Nicole, “We sometimes get comfortable in the classroom and you do the same things unaware of why you’re doing it. You’ve just done it that way for a long time. So, it is just very helpful to have Virginia Quality technical assistance and training sessions.”

Nicole says that, although sometimes it is hard to change your way of doing things, it is best for the children. “You know it is best practices, and that’s always the focus – always what is best for the children.”

Sherry’s training ensured that early childcare providers are aware of Developmentally Appropriate Practices, which include some of the following tips:

  • Teaching must be intentional to be effective
  • Assess each child’s learning abilities
  • understand that children develop and learn at different rates
  • Make all learning experiences meaningful and relevant for each child
  • Use techniques specific to each child

If you are an early childcare provider and want to avoid falling victim to the “billiards dilemma” maybe YOU would benefit from a Virginia Quality training session! When joining Virginia Quality, the free community also recognizes early childcare professionals by their commitment to quality for young children in terms of Levels – Level 5 being the highest-level accreditation that a childcare center can earn. Click here to learn about the Virginia Quality Levels

So, how do you create general guidelines to follow when considering Developmentally Appropriate Practices to avoid the “billiards dilemma”?  Sherry recommends that, “We have to meet every child where they are, but not leave them in that state.”

But remember, there is not one specific answer –because it depends on each individual child!

United Way of Southwest Virginia fights for the health, education and financial stability of every person in Southwest Virginia because they are the building blocks for a good quality of life.  Through an initiative-based cradle-to-career approach, United Way of Southwest Virginia is creating sustainable solutions to address the challenges facing tomorrow’s workforce. United Way convenes cross-sector partners to make an impact on the most complex problems in our region. Through collaboration with government, business, nonprofit and individuals, United Way innovates for positive, lasting social change.  With a footprint that covers nearly 20% of the state of Virginia, United Way of Southwest Virginia programs and initiatives serve the counties of Bland, Buchanan, Carroll, Dickenson, Floyd, Giles, Grayson, Lee, Montgomery, Pulaski, Russell, Scott, Smyth, Tazewell, Washington, Wise, and Wythe, and the cities of Bristol, Galax, Norton, and Radford.

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