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Glossary Kid Talk About Us

Incidental Teaching

In the first section, we described the how to create teaching opportunities based on your child's interest. In the second section, we described ways to provide help to your child. In this section, we will combine the information from those two sections as we describe incidental teaching. Incidental teaching focuses on interactions between children and adults. During interactions, you can use incidental teaching to provide opportunities for your child to learn and develop skills that might be hard for her to learn, especially skills described in your child's IEP or IFSP. In incidental teaching, there are five steps that describe how adults and children take turns during an interaction. They go in this order:

  • You watch and listen for a sound, word, gesture, or gaze that shows your child is interested in something (Child initiates)
  • You engage your child by suggesting, looking at same thing, naming what she's looking at, asking a question, or commenting (encourage child to do something more elaborate)
  • You wait (give the child the chance to do something or respond)
  • You give support (Give help, as necessary)
  • You confirm--give your child the item of interest, expand a phrase, or praise your child(this is the natural consequence)


Incidental teaching is really just a way to use your child's interest to encourage her to say or do something. As you take turns talking or doing something, you encourage her to use a skill that she needs to learn. It is the way adults and young children ordinarily interact. Because children learn from these interactions, we call them incidental teaching (the teaching and learning occur incidentally!). To help you understand incidental teaching we have broken it down as a series of steps so you can recognize ways that an adult and child take turns.

It isn't as important to remember the technical part of incidental teaching as it is to remember that as long as you and your child are having fun talking about something or doing something he is interested in, you are helping to promote his development. All you really need to remember is to (1) take turns interacting with your child when he's interested in something and (2) to keep it fun.

The five steps of incidental teaching are:

Go on to Step 1 - Watch and Listen


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2003 Utah State University, Center for Persons with Disabilities

This page last updated on March 11, 2003