Children’s learning through observation in the context of work and play

  • Barbara Turk Niskač University of Ljubljana
Keywords: anthropology of childhood, learning, socialisation


This paper analyses ethnographic studies of childhood in Slovenian agrarian society in the first half of the 20th century. It shows how children were organically integrated into daily life, work and interactions, allowing them to directly learn through observation and gradual participation. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork from 2011/2012 in southern Slovenia, it presents a case study of children’s learning through observation and participation in domestic chores and thus questions the dichotomy between “traditional” societies in which children could learn through observation and the “information society” in which it is said that childhoods are becoming institutionalised, and more formal learning strategies are needed in order to socialise them into current society. Theoretically, the paper draws on current anthropological theories on children’s learning and socialisation.