Our Program Philosophy and Practices


The Child Development Laboratory School’s program follows the guidelines for developmentally appropriate practice of the National Association for the Education of Young Children. As such, it is based on a constructivist orientation and is predominantly child-directed. The constructivist orientation, drawn largely from the work of Jean Piaget, emphasizes the interaction of the child with the physical and social environment, through which the child actively constructs her/his knowledge and concepts. Children learn of their world through acting on their world. It is the role of the teacher to support and facilitate this interactive process. The program reflects an interest in the development of the whole child, including cognitive development, but within a social context. Learning is not based solely on teacher/child interaction, but is built into child/environment and child/child interaction. It is embedded in a social activity and capitalizes on a preschooler’s active experimental approach to learning. Also, the overall goal is the elaboration of a child’s abilities within their stage of development rather than their acceleration through a developmental stage.

Many programs, which claim to be based on developmental theory, have as their primary interest the acceleration of a child’s movement from one stage to another. Our program tries to provide many opportunities for growth and for the elaboration and integration of stage-appropriate skills.

The Child Development Laboratory School supports the independence and individuality of the children. Teachers develop goals for each individual child as well as for their groups of children. The major part of the day is a work period in which several small group activities and many independent activities are available. Children are free to choose between various tasks with the guidance of the teacher and are rarely expected to be doing the same thing at the same time.

The Child Development Laboratory School program provides a secure, creative environment in which to encourage each child’s cognitive, physical, social and emotional development. The teachers provide a variety of appropriate and open-ended activities and experiences, which allow children to create and experiment with their own ideas. The teachers extend and expand on the children’s learning and experiences. Children also have many opportunities to become involved in group activities and projects, which promote cooperative effort and the sharing of ideas. The overall goals for children include:

  1. Encouraging active curiosity and an enthusiasm for learning.
  2. Developing problem-solving skills.
  3. Supporting individual creative expression.
  4. Developing large and small motor skills.
  5. Promoting cooperative social interactions.
  6. Feeling part of a classroom community.
  7. Developing self-confidence and self-esteem.


Our toddler and preschool programs range from 3 hours in length up to full day care (9.5 hours) and consists of the following primary components:


Before school care

Children enrolled in the full day program will begin their day with their assigned group, as early as 8:00am. During this time, children will have an opportunity to have a snack and participate in select free-choice activities. This option can also be added to any part time program.

Arrival and greeting

Head Teachers are positioned in their respective areas to greet children and their parents as they arrive. Brief news and information can be exchanged at this time. Assistant Teachers and Assisting Parents are in the classroom to help children become involved with the activities while the Head Teacher continues to greet. Parents are asked to check in with the Head Teacher each day while dropping off their child and share any relevant information.

Group meeting (preschool classes only)

After all of the children have arrived, the class gathers for a brief meeting (5-10 minutes). The content of this meeting varies with what is or has been happening in the classroom. Planning may be needed for a special activity or ongoing project. Discussion and group problem solving may be needed for a procedural or social issue.

Free choice activities

This time is the longest portion of the day. Materials and experiences planned by the Head Teacher are prepared and available throughout the classroom. The activities are open-ended and invite children to come up with their own ideas.

Head Teachers provide written activity plans for the different activities and post them in the classroom in order that the assistant teachers and assisting parent can help to carry them out. Children move about independently, selecting activities of their choice. Experiences in the following areas are typically offered: blocks, dramatic play, sand/water, art, easel painting, library, manipulatives, writing, woodworking, math and science. The teachers encourage the children to become involved with the activities and to explore and manipulate the materials present. Teachers and Assisting Parents usually move about the room, interacting with the children and encouraging peer interaction in order to extend the children’s ideas and insights.

Though most of the activities have an open-ended goal, for example easel painting or sand play, the Head Teacher will also provide some activities for children to choose that do have a specific goal or purpose, such as cooking something for snack or making something to use for another activity e.g., kites to fly outside, turning a box into a spaceship). Whenever possible, the purposes for these activities flow from the interests of the children. In planning such activities, the Head Teacher keeps them as open-ended as possible, allowing for the children’s ideas, experimentation and problem solving. Activities may also be planned around specific content, e.g., dinosaurs, pets, plants, once again attempting to follow the children’s interests. Such content, while significant in itself, is seen most importantly as the medium through which the program’s goals for children can be met.

Clean up

Children and adults put materials away in preparation for the next events. Usually a five-minute warning is informally given to the children prior to the beginning of clean up. After dismissal, adults return to the classroom for a thorough cleanup.

Circle time

This time is an opportunity for the children to come together to share songs, fingerplays, stories, creative movement activities and cooperative games. Special events which occurred during free choice time may be briefly shared and discussed.


The assisting parent provides the snack and sets it up during circle time. Both adults and children share snack together, usually in small groups at a number of tables. Snack time provides a good opportunity to engage children in conversation with adults and with their peers.

Outdoor play

Unless it is extremely cold or raining, all classes go outdoors every day. Outdoor play is not recess, but rather is an integral part of the program which provides a different physical and social environment for the children to explore, as well as a chance for large motor play.


Teachers will gather the children at the end of the day and bring some closure to the class session. Dismissal may be either from inside the room or outside in the play yard. Parents are asked to briefly check in with the Head Teacher before leaving with their child for the day.


Children who are enrolled beyond 12:00pm sit together and enjoy social interactions while eating their lunch (provided from home). This time offers children the opportunity to learn more about one another and practice their conversation skills.

Resting Time

After transitioning from lunch, children remaining past the 1:00 pick up time are provided with a quiet place to rest. Families are encouraged to bring a small comfort item from home to help their children settle in for sleep. Those that do not sleep are offered choices of quiet activities until pick up time or their transition to afternoon care.

Afternoon care

Children enrolled in the full day program will transition at 2:30 with their assigned group for afternoon activities. During this time, children will have another opportunity to participate in free-choice activities, snack, and outdoor play (weather permitting), as described above, as well as participate in special projects.