REVIEWED BY NUMBERDYSLEXIA’S EXPERT PANEL ON JANUARY 24, 2023
As parents and educators, we often focus on structured learning opportunities for children such as school and homework. However, have you ever observed how playing with toys to chatting with friends, these seemingly small moments are actually powerful opportunities for children to learn and grow?
Incidental learning, or learning that occurs naturally through everyday experiences and interactions, plays a crucial role in shaping a child’s cognitive, social, and emotional growth. Children are particularly adept at learning through observation and often learn new skills and behaviors simply by watching others. For example, a child may learn to use utensils by watching his parents eat or learn to read by watching his siblings or parents read books.
In this article, we’ll dive into the importance of incidental learning in child development and how it adds value to the child’s daily life.
What is incidental learning in early childhood education?
In early childhood education, incidental learning refers to the process by which young children acquire new knowledge, skills, and behaviors through everyday experiences and interactions with the world around them. This can include observing others, exploring their environment, participating in daily routines and activities, and engaging in play.
In addition to being a natural and important part of child development, incidental learning can also be facilitated and supported through intentional efforts by caregivers and educators. For example, a teacher may create an environment rich in opportunities for learning through play and exploration, or a parent may provide a child with age-appropriate materials and resources that support incidental learning.
Incidental learning is an important aspect of early childhood education because it allows children to learn naturally and authentically and to make connections between new information and their own experiences. It also allows children to learn at their own pace, as they can take in and process new information at a level appropriate for their development.
Incidental learning in child development: How does it add value?
Incidental learning refers to acquiring knowledge or skills through casual or unintentional exposure to information. This type of learning can be particularly valuable in child development because it allows children to learn and explore in a natural and unstructured way.
For example, when children are allowed to play and interact with their environment, they are exposed to a wide range of stimuli and can learn about the world around them through firsthand experience. This type of learning can be particularly beneficial because it allows children to make connections and form associations between different concepts, which can help them understand and retain information more effectively.
Incidental learning can also help children develop important problem-solving and critical-thinking skills. When children can explore and discover things independently, they are forced to find creative solutions to problems and develop their ideas and interpretations. This type of learning can be an important precursor to more formalized education and help children develop the skills and confidence they need to succeed in school and beyond.
Therefore, incidental learning can be a powerful tool in child development, allowing children to learn and grow naturally and engagingly.
Key benefits of incidental learning for child development
Incidental learning is an important means by which children acquire new knowledge, skills, and behaviors, and discussed below are some ways of how it can add significant value to their overall development and learning.
1. Authentic and natural learning: Incidental learning allows children to learn naturally and authentically through everyday experiences and interactions with the world around them. This can be more engaging and meaningful for children than formal, structured learning experiences.
2. Development of real-world skills: Because incidental learning occurs through everyday experiences and activities, it can help children develop relevant and useful skills in the real world. For example, a child who learns how to use tools by observing a parent fix a broken item is learning a skill he can use in various real-world situations.
3. Flexibility and adaptability: Incidental learning allows children to learn at their own pace and in their own way, which can help them be more flexible and adaptable learners. This can be especially important in early childhood when children are still developing their cognitive and learning skills.
4. Development of self-regulation skills: Incidental learning can also help children to develop important self-regulation skills, such as the ability to focus and pay attention, to persevere when faced with challenges, and to manage their emotions. These skills are important for children’s overall development and learning and can be developed through incidental learning experiences.
Incidental learning & learning disabilities: Can it help with development?
Incidental learning can be a helpful and effective way for children with learning disabilities to acquire new knowledge and skills. Because incidental learning occurs through everyday experiences and activities, it can provide children with opportunities to learn more naturally and authentically, which may be more engaging and meaningful.
For children with learning disabilities, incidental learning can also provide opportunities for learning that are more tailored to their individual needs and abilities. For example, a child with a learning disability may have difficulty with more structured, formal learning experiences but may be able to learn effectively through hands-on, experiential activities.
However, it is important to note that incidental learning alone may not be sufficient to address the needs of all children with learning disabilities. Some children may require more structured and specialized interventions to progress their learning and development. In these cases, working with a specialist or therapist who can provide more targeted support and guidance may be helpful.
Hence, incidental learning can be a valuable and effective means of learning for children with learning disabilities. It can be used with other strategies and approaches to support their development and learning.
In conclusion, Incidental learning is particularly important in childhood when children are still developing their cognitive and learning skills. It can play a critical role in their overall development and learning.
Incidental learning is the type of learning that occurs as a byproduct of an individual’s everyday experiences rather than as a result of intentional efforts to learn. In child development, incidental learning is an important means of acquiring new knowledge, skills, and behaviors. Children are constantly exposed to new information and experiences as they interact with the world around them, and they often learn from these experiences without realizing them. For example, a child who sees a parent using a tool to fix a broken item may inadvertently learn how to use that tool herself, even if she is not actively trying to learn how to do so.
I am Shweta Sharma. I am a final year Masters student of Clinical Psychology and have been working closely in the field of psycho-education and child development. I have served in various organisations and NGOs with the purpose of helping children with disabilities learn and adapt better to both, academic and social challenges. I am keen on writing about learning difficulties, the science behind them and potential strategies to deal with them. My areas of expertise include putting forward the cognitive and behavioural aspects of disabilities for better awareness, as well as efficient intervention. Follow me on LinkedIn