The characteristics of developmentally appropriate practice are a cornerstone of early childhood education. Early educators must understand its dimensions, characteristics, and principles. Teachers also need to understand the theories and concepts of John Bowlby (attachment), Abraham Maslow (hierarchy of needs), Howard Gardner (multiple intelligences), Arnold Gesell (gradients of growth), Maria Montessori (maturationist theory), Lev Vygotsky (sociocultural theory), Erik Erikson (psychosocial theory), Jean Piaget (stages of intellectual development), Jerome Bruner (discovery learning), and Urie Bronfenbrenner (ecological theory).
An understanding of the developmental characteristics of children from infancy through 8 years of age allows teachers to successfully prepare materials and activities for young children. Children with special needs (disabled, at-risk, and gifted) are an important part of early education; teachers need to understand and prepare for educating these children, including those with common disabilities, such as Down Syndrome, Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, Autism Spectrum Disorder, and Asthma. Finally, academic study, observation, and communication with families are all important ways of learning about children.