top of page

Serendipity and Chance Learning

Serendipity is defined as a “fortunate happenstance” or “pleasant surprise”. It was

coined by Horace Walpole in 1754 in reference to the Persian fairy tale, The Three

Princes of Serendip. The princes were always making discoveries by accident.

Serendipity is a common occurrence in science and has led to such discoveries as

Penicillin and the microwave oven. I see serendipity, accidental learning and children

and staff making new discoveries every day in my setting. I think serendipity should

be recognised, encouraged and supported.

Chance learning opportunities happen all the time in my setting. When you have a

rich, varied and exciting environment where discovery and testing of ideas is

encouraged then learning will naturally take place. It may not always be the learning

that you expect though. As I am sure every childcare professional has experienced

when planning activities, children will follow their own learning pathways and ideas.

Adult led activities play an important role in how children learn but in my opinion

child initiated learning and free play offers more varied and extensive learning


The advantage of children having free/creative play time is that they can stumble

across new ideas and learning. These accidental discoveries in the adult world have

led to inventions such as artificial sweeteners, sticky notes, etc. In children it is

essential that we allow children the opportunity to explore, discover and test. We

need an environment and resources that encourages this as well as having an ethos

and a way of being that puts discovery and learning at the centre of everything that we

do. The environment and resources will lead to accidental discoveries but the ethos

and way of being will lead to the children having the confidence and knowledge to

know what to do with their new discovery.

The best way to create an environment where the children feel comfortable and

confident to make new discoveries is by allowing each member of staff to test new

ideas, try new things and discover for themselves. This creates an atmosphere where

everyone feels free to discovery, learn and test ideas. In my setting each member of

staff is encouraged to think of possible new ways of doing things, share them and test

them out. Since adopting this approach we have made massive improvements and the

staff are creative, inspired and motivated.

When the staff have a mindset that sees endless possibilities, solutions and ways of

doing things they will encourage and facilitate this way of thinking. This will lead to

the children playing and learning creatively and seeing beyond the obvious e.g. “it

looks like a phone, therefore I could use it as a phone or a camera, tablet, microphone,

scanner, etc, etc”. This way of thinking will lead to an increase in serendipity,

accidental discoveries and more and varied learning opportunities.

8 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page