Three quick ways to encourage incidental learning

Learning happens constantly, not only in the classroom and not only when you sit down to ‘teach’ your child.  Children learn through experiencing different situations, through doing and playing.  Incidental learning sometimes happen when we least expect it, or we can encourage it through different quick-do activities.

In the kitchen:

Incidental learning while cooking or baking a cake is a great way to spend quality time with your child in a relaxing environment. At the same time, the child is learning language, math and a life skill all in one activity.  Following instructions accurately is a very important life skill - you have to follow a recipe accurately and bake the cake according to the instructions, otherwise it may not come out as expected. 

  • What ingredients do you need to bake a cake? Name and count it.
  • What equipment do you need to bake a cake? Name and count it.
  • Once you add the ingredients to the cake, you can start counting down. For example: we had 6 eggs, how many do we have now? 

In the car:

Seize every opportunity to talk to your child.  They learn to see the world through the words they know.  While riding in a car, a child does not feel pressured to perform, as the primary focus is not on them.  Make this a positive experience for your child. 

  • Talk about what is happening on the road or in the car.
  • Identify the colours of passing vehicles while driving.
  • Point out signs and shops as you are driving or shopping such as Woolworths, Engen or McDonalds.
  • Show your child the different car companies’ signs. Let them count the number of (for example) Volkswagens they see while driving to school. 
  • When driving to Grandma, create a story problem for an older child: she is staying 35km from us, how long will it take us to arrive if we drive at 70km/h?

In the garden:

Playing in the garden is one of the most beneficial activities for young children.  All the textures, smells and sensory experiences feed their sensory systems and provide a vast range of opportunities to learn and grow.

  • Plant a seed and help your child to water it every day. Choose something that is easy to grow, such as beans or peas.  Talk to your child about the changes you see and the wonders of germination.
  • Take a hose pipe and make mud in a corner of your garden. Help your child make mud pies, roads, rivers and dams.  Count them, compare them and feel them!
  • Take a magnifying glass and go on a bug hunt. Count their legs, count their wings and watch them move.

Do you have any ideas for activities to promote incidental learning?  Send it to us at before 15 November 2019. You will stand a chance to win a R1000 shopping voucher for our online store.  The winner will be announced on 30 November 2019

Now visit:

Learning happens all around us

Incidental learning for English language learners

What is incidental learning?

Incidental learning - infants and toddlers

Hanlie Steynberg has home schooled her three children since they were small. She is a cum-laude UNISA graduate in computer programming and mathematical statistics, has a cum-laude honours degree in education and computer science, and has a Master’s Certificate in graphic design from Sessions Design School, New York.  She is currently busy with her master's degree in computer science.