Foundation Phase Life Skills

What is Life Skills?

The Life Skills subject is central to the holistic development of learners. It is concerned with the social, personal, intellectual, emotional and physical growth of learners and how these are integrated. In the Foundation Phase Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statement (CAPS), the subject Life Skills in Foundation Phase (Grades R-3) has been organised into four study areas: Beginning Knowledge, Personal and Social Well-being, Creative Arts and Physical Education. Life Skills has been scheduled to ensure that the foundational skills, values and concepts of early childhood development and the subjects offered in Grades 4 – 12 are taught and developed in Grades R-3. Beginning Knowledge and Personal and Social Well-being are integrated into the topics. Life Skills is a cross-cutting subject that should support and strengthen the teaching of the other core Foundation Phase subjects, namely Languages (home and First Additional) and Mathematics.


2023 Annual Teaching Plans

Specific Aims 

The Life Skills subject aims to guide and prepare learners for life and its possibilities, including equipping learners for meaningful and successful living in a rapidly changing and transforming society. Through Life Skills, learners are exposed to a range of knowledge, skills and values that strengthen their 

  • physical, social, personal, emotional and cognitive development; 
  • creative and aesthetic skills and knowledge through engaging in dance, music, drama and visual art activities; 
  • knowledge of personal health and safety; 
  • understanding of the relationship between people and the environment; 
  • awareness of social relationships, technological processes and elementary science. 

Explaining the life skills study areas

Beginning Knowledge 

The content and concepts of Beginning Knowledge have been drawn from Social Sciences (History and Geography), Natural Sciences and Technology. The key concepts and skills relating to these disciplines in the curriculum at the Foundation Phase level are detailed below: 

  • Social science concepts; conservation, cause and effect, place, adaptation, relationships and interdependence, diversity and individuality, and change; 
  • Natural Science concepts; life and living, energy and change, matter and materials; planet earth and beyond; Scientific process skills; the process of enquiry which involves observing, comparing, classifying, measuring, experimenting, and communicating;
  • Technological process skills; investigate, design, make, evaluate, communicate. 

Personal and Social Well-being

Personal and Social Well-being is an important study area for young learners because they are still learning how to look after themselves and keep themselves healthy. This study area includes social health, emotional health, and relationships with other people and our environment, including values and attitudes. The study area Personal and Social Well-being will help learners make informed, morally responsible and accountable decisions about their health and the environment. It addresses nutrition, diseases (including HIV/AIDS), safety, violence, abuse and environmental health. Learners will develop the skills to relate positively and contribute to family, community and society while practising the values embedded in the Constitution. Learners will learn to exercise their constitutional rights and responsibilities, respect the rights and show tolerance for cultural and religious diversity to contribute to a democratic society. 

Creative arts 

Creative Arts exposes learners to four art forms: dance, drama, music and the visual arts. The primary purpose of Creative Arts is to develop learners as creative, imaginative individuals with an appreciation of the arts. It also provides essential knowledge and skills to be able to participate in creative activities. Foundation Phase learners are inherently creative, and play is their natural way of learning in the arts. Learners should be guided to use their natural inclinations to use their imagination, manipulate and work with materials, move and make music and tell stories. Learners should explore and develop their creative ideas based on their personal experiences, using their senses, emotions and observations. The focus of the learning should be on developing skills through enjoyable, experiential processes rather than working towards highly polished products in each term. The introduction of these creative skills is essential in refining and controlling gross and fine motor skills. Creative Arts aims to create a foundation for balanced creative, cognitive, emotional and social development. In the curriculum, Creative Arts are organised in two parallel and complementary streams – Visual Art and Performing Arts (Dance, Drama, Music). 

Visual Arts develops sensory-motor skills and fine and gross motor coordination through the manipulation of materials and the mastery of various art techniques. Two-dimensional (2d) work aims to enrich the learner’s experience of the natural world through visual and sensory stimulation, discussion and questioning, and encouraging the drawing of the physical body in motion: climbing, running, sitting, lying. There is no right way to draw, and learners should be encouraged to express themselves freely, without fearing criticism. Three-dimensional (3d) work develops the concept of shape in space by joining clay, glueing or pasting paper onto paper, cutting shapes, folding, tying, and wrapping. The formal application of one or more art elements should be incorporated into each visual arts lesson. This means that learners should use and talk about lines, shapes and colours. 

Performing Arts in the Foundation Phase allows learners the opportunity to creatively communicate, dramatise, sing, make music, dance and explore movement. Through the performing arts, learners develop their physical skills and creativity. Performing Arts stimulates memory, promotes relationships and builds self-confidence and self-discipline. Creative games and crafts prepare the body and voice, and games are used to learn skills. Improvise and interpret allows learners to create music, movement and drama individually and collaboratively. 

Physical education 

The development of the learner’s gross and fine motor skills and perceptual development is fundamental in the Foundation Phase. Physical and motor development is integral to the holistic development of learners. It makes a significant contribution to learners’ social, personal and emotional development. Play, movement, games and sport contribute to developing positive attitudes and values. This area focuses on perceptual and locomotor development, rhythm, balance and laterality. The focus in the Foundation Phase is on games and some activities that will form the basis of participating in sports later on. Physical growth, development, recreation and play are emphasised. 

Teaching in the Foundation Phase 

Grade R learners can fall within the 0-4 stage of development. For this reason, the National Early Learning Development Standards (NELDS) is a vital reference document for planning, teaching and learning. There are essential skills that very young learners need to master and understand before they go to Grade 1, and Grade R should help them, acquiring those skills. One of the most critical roles of the Grade R teacher is to provide learners with an environment that is safe, clean and caring, with adequate opportunities to play and explore the world under the careful guidance of their teacher. 

The teacher should provide: 

  • routine, structured and free play activities for learners that are enjoyable and manageable; 
  • a range of resources for routine, structured and free play activities; 
  • a well-managed, child-friendly and freely accessible environment. 

All Foundation Phase learners, but Grade R learners, in particular, should not be stuck in chairs behind desks all morning. They instead need comfortable spaces with blankets and cushions and workspaces with chairs and tables to play, work and move around freely. 

Generally, the Foundation Phase timetable consists of routine activities, free play activities indoors and outdoors, and structured activities. Regular and free play activities have been built into the Life Skills CAPS document because they usually involve physical education or health education. 

Routine activities 

Routine activities take place at a regular time each day. At least ten minutes of the time allocated to each Life Skills study area should be used daily for routine activities, e.g. the date chart can take ten minutes of the time allocated to Beginning Knowledge because learners learn about the days of the week, months and dates. Ten minutes of the time allocated to Creative Arts can be used for a ‘tidying up’ routine since that is an important life skill. Ten minutes of the time given to Personal and Social Well-being can be used for weekly or monthly health check routines, in addition to putting away equipment and dressing in appropriate clothing. 

Routine activities include: 

  • arrival and departure greetings; 
  • toilet routine; 
  • birthday chart; 
  • date chart; 
  • health chart; 
  • preparation for creative art and physical education activities, e.g. putting on aprons, taking off shoes; 
  • tidying up time after creative arts and free play. 

Free play activities indoors and outdoors 

Free play activities can take place indoors or outdoors, or both. The time allocated to Physical Education and Creative Arts can be used for free play time because the physical skills learned and practised during free play support the learning in these two study areas. 

Examples of free play activities include: 

  • Free art (painting, drawing, modelling) Tearing, cutting
  •  Pasting
  •  Block area 
  • Fine motor activities (pencil grip activities, tongs, tweezers, puzzles, threading, weaving, dressing frames, etc.) 
  • Sandbox 
  • Fantasy play 
  • Book area 
  • Discovery area (interest table, matching /sorting cards, sensory activities, 
  • Music area Writing area Block play 
  • Water (and mud) play, Sand play
  • Sensory play, Fantasy play 
  • Gross motor play (climbing, swinging, balancing etc.) 
  • Block play, Ball play, Wheel toys, Construction 
  • Gardening
  • Caring for animals Outside art activities 
  • Free play inside 
  • Free play outside 

Structured activities 

Structured activities are short teaching and learning activities, often guided by the teacher. They can be done with individual learners, in small groups or as a whole class, depending on the nature of the lesson. The concepts, content and skills for structured activities are specified in the study areas in the curriculum document. 

Perceptual skills 

The development of perceptual skills in young learners is significant in laying a foundation for future growth and learning. Perception means using the senses to acquire information about the surroundings, environment or situation. Teachers should focus on developing perceptual skills across all four study areas and in Languages and Mathematics. The following are critical perceptual skills that teachers should pay attention to: 

  • Visual perception – acquiring and interpreting information through the eyes – accurate visual perception enables the learner to read, write and do mathematics; 
  • Visual discrimination – the ability to see similarities, differences and details of objects accurately;
  • Visual memory – the ability to remember what the eyes have seen and the correct sequence in which things have been perceived; 
  • auditory perception – acquiring and interpreting information through the ears – accurate auditory perception enables the learner to give meaning to what is heard; 
  • auditory discrimination – the ability to hear similarities and differences in sounds;
  • auditory memory – the ability to remember what the ears have listened to and the correct sequence in which sounds have been perceived; 
  • Hand-eye coordination – the hands and eyes working together when performing a movement, e.g. throwing or catching a ball; 
  • Body image – a complete awareness of one’s own body, i.e. how it moves and how it functions; 
  • laterality – showing an understanding of each side of the body, e.g. which hand is waving; 
  • dominance – preferring to use one hand or side of the body, i.e. either right or left dominant; 
  • Crossing the mid-line – being able to work across the vertical midline of the body, e.g. being able to draw a line from one side of the page to the other without changing the tool from one hand to the other; 
  • Figure-ground perception – being able to focus attention on a specific object or aspect while ignoring all other stimuli, the thing of the attention is therefore in the foreground of the perceptual field while all the rest is in the background, e.g. being able to read one word in a sentence; 
  • Form perception – the ability to recognise forms, shapes, symbols, letters, etc. regardless of position, size, background, e.g. can recognise a circle because of its unique shape; 
  • spatial orientation – the ability to understand the space around the body, or the relationship between the object and the observer, e.g. the hat is on my head; 

Resources for Life Skills 

Some materials are more accessible to obtain than others. Some equipment is the standard material for a Foundation Phase class. Ideally, learners should have access to this common material all the time. They can use these resources during free play activities, structured activities, finished a teacher-directed task, or simply when they need ‘time out’. This standard material includes: 

  • bean bags, ropes, hoops, balls of different sizes, balancing beams/planks/tyres, outdoor play equipment (tyres, jungle gym, climbing ropes, trees), scarves/strips of cloth, bats, containers (bowls, buckets, tins to be used as targets), skittles/bottles (as targets), hard, flat open surface, sticks, storage containers, swings, bricks, cones, balloons 
  • dry media: wax crayons, paper, oil pastels, chalk, 2B pencils, felt-tipped pens, charcoal, sand 
  • wet media: paint, ink, dyes, mud 
  • brushes of different sizes 
  • sheets of paper or scrap paper in various sizes and colours 
  • earthenware clay, paper machĂ©, play dough, mud 
  • beads (glass, paper, plastic), straws, macaroni, shells, etc. for threading 
  • recyclable materials: boxes, toilet rolls, polystyrene containers and packing materials, corks, wrapping paper, tin foil, wool, string, stones, seeds, old newspapers/magazines 
  • glue, cardboard strips for glue applicators, scissors, pre-mixed starch 
  • CD player, CDs, musical instruments 
  • old clothes, utensils, containers, to be used as ‘props’ for fantasy and dramatic play 
  • puzzles and other manipulative educational toys, bought and homemade 
  • pictures, wall charts and maps 
  • information and storybooks (library) 
  • plastic lens/ magnifying glass 
  • people – older family members and guests. For Creative Arts specifically, the following is required:
    • open space 
    • musical instruments, including found and made 
    • audio and audiovisual equipment with a range of suitable music 
    • charts and posters 
    • variety of props, e.g. materials, balls, different sized and shaped objects, old clothes 
  • visual stimuli for drawing and construction.
    •  Specific materials required for particular topics are specified in the CAPS document

Time allocation of study areas in Life Skills in Foundation Phase 

The per-term time allocation for Life Skills is 60 hours per term for Grades R to 2 and 70 hours per term for Grade 3. This means that in a 5-day week cycle, Beginning Knowledge and Personal and Social Well-being will be taught for 2 hours a week, Creative Arts for 2 hours, Physical Education for 2 hours in Grades R to 2, and Beginning Knowledge and Personal and Social Well-being will be taught for 3 hours a week, Creative Arts for 2 hours and Physical Education for 2 hours in Grade 3. 

These components are fundamental in the learner’s holistic development and should be covered in the Grade R-3 curriculum either daily or weekly. 


Beginning Knowledge and Personal and Social Well-being in the Life Skills curriculum are organised in topics. The use of topics is suggested to integrate the content from the different study areas where possible and appropriate. Teachers are encouraged to adapt the topics so that they are suitable for their school contexts. Teachers are also encouraged to choose their topics should they judge these to be more appropriate. 

Weighting of topics 

The curriculum is designed across 40 weeks of the year. Approximate time allocations are given for each topic during each term, indicating each topic’s weighting. Teachers may organise their time as they wish, e.g. they may decide to do 30 minutes of Beginning Knowledge and Personal and Social Well-being every day, except Friday and Creative Arts on Tuesday and Thursday for an hour. Routine activities and indoor and outdoor free play also need to be incorporated into the teaching schedule. 

Sequencing and Progression 

A suggested order for the topics is provided as one of the essential principles of early childhood education: to begin with what is familiar to the learner and introduce less familiar topics and skills later. Therefore sequencing and progression have been built into the design of the topics. The sequence of the topics can be changed, but teachers should pay attention to the progression and level at which the topic is addressed. 

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