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Onlooker Learners - By Emma Hart, Former Mini Maestros Head Of Teaching

The term onlooker learning is very much as it sounds, learning through watching. Many children will go through this stage, as it is essentially how we all learn, in combination with trying and discovering things through trial and error.

Some children find it safest to trial and test things out for themselves when alone, or in an environment where they feel most comfortable.

This doesn’t mean not exposing them to anything outside their comfort zone, quite the opposite, but it does require giving them the time and space to express and try things when they are ready. 

This might mean that they watch other children and the teacher for quite some time before joining in or responding in a learning or play setting. This is very normal and there is no need for concern.

It is very common, however, to discover these children very competently trying out things they have observed when alone or with other trusted carers/playmates in a familiar environment. This is a very good sign, as it confirms that all of the learning is happening!

It is reassuring to know that this is a very normal stage of play. One that many children go through, and a valid style of learning. It is very common in the early years as children are still learning about their world, and what is safe and what is not.

It is very important we respect and nurture their boundaries, so they have a healthy sense of self as they grow up.

To read more about “Parten’s stages of play,” Click Here.

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