10 Day-to-day Examples Of Incidental Learning

Have you ever been surprised and shocked when you find a small growing kid to start imitating and repeating words or expressions their parents say randomly at an unknown moment?

This is one example of incidental learning we see around us in kids.

Incidental learning is a natural process where learning takes place unplanned or unintentionally. Incidental processes are both unorganized and unstructured to our conscious mind. It is a non-intentional take of knowledge and facts that happen around us in day-to-day activities.

While it is clearly important for child development, however, to make the concept clearer, In this post, we will share some real-life examples of events and scenarios people find themselves grasping incidental learning.

Incidental learning: Examples of surprising things we find accidentally learned 

Here are some real-life examples of how incidental learning can happen in our daily lives and how it can lead to unexpected and valuable knowledge.

1. Remembering movie scenes, stories, and characters

Remembering movie scenes, stories, and characters

We intend to remember a lot about a movie when we watch it—the scenes, the story, the characters—unintentionally. Such as when you watched a film a year ago but still remember the whole story while narrating it to a friend in conversation.

2. Adding new words to the vocabulary

 One may find themselves knowing new words they never studied because they keep appearing in various sources such as books, movies, and so on, but they have yet to notice them in their conscious awareness. They unconsciously add a new word to their vocabulary and use it in a scene.

3. Unconsciously remembering song lyrics

 Unconsciously remembering song lyrics

 Similarly, sometimes we find ourselves murmuring a song as it is played multiple times around us on TV or radio. You grasp some of the lyrics unknowingly and start singing them when it plays.

4. New places and businesses

New places and businesses

You are walking through a crowded street fair, and you overhear a group of people talking about a new restaurant that just opened in town that serves a unique blend of Italian and Mexican cuisine. So you make a mental note to check it out for yourself, and after a week, you decide to visit it with a friend.

5.  Learning cultural customs

 Learning cultural customs

You are traveling to a new city with a new culture. You notice that many people take their shoes off before entering their homes. Initially, you are unsure of the custom, but as you observe more people doing it, you learn it is a sign of respect.

6. Picking up new languages through media

Picking up new languages through media

You knew that your friend had recently binge-watched a slew of Korean dramas. One day, when you came across a Korean couple and mistakenly hit them on your way, you were shocked to see your friend apologizing in Korean and bowing down without thinking. You will be amazed as he has grasped a few Korean phrases and their culture through them.

7. Learning new cooking techniques

  Gaining new perspectives and knowledge through conversations

While flipping through the channels, you stumped upon a new recipe. For fun, you intriguingly decided to give it a try, following along with the instructions and techniques are shown on the show. In one shot, you successfully cooked the dish and were pleasantly surprised to learn it for the future too.

8.  Gaining new perspectives and knowledge through conversations

Learning new cooking techniques

At a party with a group of friends, a conversation turns to a topic you have no previous knowledge of. As everyone began to share their thoughts and experiences, you gained a new understanding and perspective on it.

9. Learning new scientific concepts through online videos

Learning new scientific concepts through online videos

Sometimes, when you’re randomly scrolling online, you find short videos on science and technology. When you find something interesting, you naturally intend to learn about a new scientific concept by watching a video about it on YouTube.

10. Becoming familiar with new routes and landscapes through repetition

 Becoming familiar with new routes and landscapes through repetition

When trying a new route to a destination by driving or walking it. You repeatedly cross it, and you get naturally acquainted with the whole way and the landscapes around it.

Incidental learning in kids

Children are the perfect example of how individuals can acquire new information or abilities unconsciously without actively trying to do so through their daily experiences without being aware of the learning process. Examples of incidental learning in little kids include:

  • Learning to count while playing a counting game with parents
  • Learning new words by listening to adults talk around them
  • Learning to tie shoes by watching an older sibling or parent
  • Learning to distinguish different colors by playing with different colored toys
  • Learning to recognize letters and numbers by seeing them on signs and in book
  • Learning about various behaviors and social cues by observing others’ facial expressions and body language.
  • Learning about effects and causes by playing with toys and observing the outcomes of their actions.
  • Physical skills such as balancing are being developed through play and exploring their surroundings.
  • Learning about various cultures, languages, and traditions through media exposure and interactions with people from various backgrounds.
  • Understanding and developing a sense of humor by listening to and observing others tell jokes and make funny faces.

Incidental learning plays an important role, especially in a child’s development, and helps them acquire the skills and knowledge they need to thrive in life.

Incidental learning: Can learning without trying to learn help?

Yes, Incidental learning can be a very efficient way to learn new information and skills. It happens as we pick up knowledge passively, frequently due to our daily experiences and interactions with the environment.

Being different that intentional learning, incidental learning has many advantages. Compared to more conventional learning techniques like studying or attending classes, it may be more enjoyable and less demanding. As we are more likely to remember information that we learn through meaningful and genuine experiences, it can also be more effective.

In addition, incidental learning can help us make fresh connections between various pieces of knowledge, which can help with problem-solving and original thought. It can also aid our understanding of new ideas. Furthermore, parents and teachers can also make use of the various incidental learning activities. 


Overall, incidental learning is an excellent way to learn new information and skills outside of formal study or instruction through everyday experiences and interactions. The examples show how incidental learning can happen in our day-to-day instances while engaging in various activities like reading books, watching, taking part in the conversation, and more. It can be a valuable and enjoyable way to increase one’s knowledge and understanding of the world around us.

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