Incidental Teaching and Learning

In teaching, I used to talk a lot about incidental teaching (and by ‘used to’ I mean, I do, but I’m now on maternity leave woohoo!). It’s seriously probably the best and most fun kind of teaching you can do, and you know what, anyone can do it, anyone, that includes you!!

Now I am NO EXPERT, but I believe every moment can be a teaching moment, and I’m not talking chalkboards and you standing up in front of your kids giving a long winded speech about what volcanoes are. I’m talking about things you can ‘do’ with your kids and even learning along with them!

Most Kinders and Primary Schools now are adapting an approach where students lead their own learning. That is not to say that there isn’t place for ‘lessons’ and Numeracy and Literacy, rather that we can embrace what students are interested in and incorporate these along the way.


We all do it, it has to be done in every household, so why not use it for incidental teaching? Princess is four years old, and every since I can remember she has always helped with the cooking. Even as a baby, her Dad (who is the main cook in our house whole, yep lucky I know!) used to talk her through what he was doing.

Cooking can be limitless when it comes to teaching our little ones and boy it can be fun!

Ingredients: various types of fruits and veggies. What is the difference between fruits and veggies? Where do certain ingredients come from (you would be surprised how many students think that milk and eggs come from cows, and no, I’m not joking!). This can even involve some taste testing, using words like sweet, sour, and spicy.

Reading Recipes: although your little one can’t read, you can read to them, pointing at words and even focusing on certain words during that particular recipe.

Measuring: this one is a given. Showing them measuring cups, measuring spoons, pointing out numbers and maybe focusing on a certain number for that particular recipe (for example, you might need 1 cup of this, 1 teaspoon or that, 1 egg. So when you get to the next ingredient, ask your child, “Now we need how many

Joining in: gets fine motor skills working! Placing cups of ingredients in bowls, cracking eggs (and yes, we have wasted a few along the way or had to fish out some shells) and mixing. All the things that kids LOVE to do, but we sometimes love to have control over.

Colors: you might have to wing this one, but if I was making cupcakes with Phoebe, we may have say smarties to decorate them with. We could grab out all the pink ones, then all the blue ones. You can even count how many you put on each cupcake so they are all the same or all “even”. Seriously, this could go anywhere, odd and even numbers, groups of, adding, dividing. See where I’m going?

Cleaning up: hell yes! Get them involved, they helped make the mess, they need to help clean it too. Not only is this a good cooking skill to have but can be used in all other areas of the house, and reminds our kids we need to take care of things.

Discussions: even just talking to your child through cooking is a learning experience in itself. Building their vocabulary with words they may not know or have never used before. But not only that, being able to ‘explain these’ and be able to put a picture in their mind too will help them remember these things.

Taking photos and using them: now if you wanna get really good, you can take some progressive photos throughout and then print them off and make a simple book with your child to read. I’ve done this once or twice with Princess, but really want to make a few more with her now that she is older.

Once cooking becomes more and more incidental teaching and learning in your home, you’ll begin to see changes in your child. Now, Princess even has her own set of knives and will often make her own kinder lunch and snacks too. Now this isn’t us being lazy parents or forcing her to be independent at such a young age, rather, she enjoys cooking and the process of it and loves to be able to do things on her own or with supervision.

Now, have a think about the things you do when you cook with you child, and I’m sure you’ll be surprised that you are in fact actually ‘teaching’ them along the way!

What would you add to this list though? And what do you think of this series of posts so far?

Bel x


2 thoughts on “Incidental Teaching and Learning

  1. Kim says:

    OK, so as you know I AM a teacher in my day job, but I sometimes find it hard to juggle my three cherubs and take the time for some incidental teaching in my own home. It just seems easier to ask the kids to stay out of the way and do it myself. That’s why I’m loving these posts. I need to get into gear helping Master 3 become more independent, inspired and engaged. Cooking with Master 3 in the past has ended in tears, but you motivated me today to have another go. Master 6 is at school, Miss 1 was in bed so the little man and myself had a go at making some cupcakes. And we loved it! We talked about colours and numbers, had a few too many licks of the spoon and checked the touch and texture of every step. This Mum and her little man are definitely going to keep spending some time together in the kitchen 😀

    • amumsreality says:

      I’m glad you had fun together! Cooking can sometimes frazzle me, especially with Phoebe, so I deliberately choose recipes that she can help a lot with and keep her engaged, nothing too tricky!
      I love that you threw caution to the wind and it turned out well x

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