Incidental Learning in Children

Student looking at plant with microscope
... IPGGutenbergUKLtd/iStock/Getty Images

Incidental learning involves using naturally occurring opportunities and interactions with the environment to teach skills, provide information and increase a desired behavior. This type of learning is often tied in with language and communication lessons but can also be used for acquiring social and life skills. Incidental learning is often successful, as it’s natural, unstructured, engaging, memorable and enjoyable.

1 Incidental Learning at Home and School

Children start to learn incidentally from infancy. This is evident in their natural acquisition of language, social skills, mannerisms and life skills, such as eating with utensils. A parent can increase incidental learning by providing natural life lessons, choosing to model desired behaviors and encouraging the child to read on a regular basis. Teachers can adopt some flexible, natural lesson plans that require students to use problem-solving skills, deductive reasoning and trial-and-error to find a solution. In both the home and classroom settings, praise, verbal recognition and positive reinforcement will help solidify these lessons and make it more likely that the child will repeat the behavior.