Teaching Life Skills in the Foundation Phase: The Basics


As a Grade R teacher, one of your most important roles is to provide young learners with an environment that is safe, clean, and caring, with adequate opportunities to play and explore the world under your guidance. The National Early Learning Development Standards (NELDS) is a vital reference document for planning, teaching, and learning. This guide will provide information on how to teach life skills in the Foundation Phase, including routine activities, free play activities, structured activities, perceptual skills, and resources required.

Routine Activities

Routine activities occur regularly each day and are essential for building structure and consistency in young learners’ lives. At least ten minutes of the time allocated to each Life Skills study area should be used daily for routine activities such as the date chart, health chart, and tidying up time after creative arts and free play. Routine activities include arrival and departure greetings, toilet routines, and preparation for creative art and physical education activities.

Free Play Activities

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, block area, sandbox, fantasy play, book area, music area, and writing area.

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

Developing perceptual skills in young learners is crucial in laying a foundation for all future development and learning. Perception means using the senses to acquire information about the surroundings, environment, or situation. The critical perceptual skills include visual perception, visual discrimination, visual memory, auditory perception, auditory discrimination, auditory memory, hand-eye coordination, body image, laterality, dominance, crossing the mid-line, figure-ground perception, form perception, and spatial orientation. Teachers should focus on developing perceptual skills across all four study areas and in Languages and Mathematics.

Resources Required to Teach Life Skills

Some equipment is standard for a Foundation Phase class, and some materials are easier to obtain than others. Standard material includes bean bags, ropes, hoops, balls of different sizes, balancing beams/planks/tyres, outdoor play equipment, dry media, wet media, brushes of various sizes, sheets of paper, earthenware clay, papier mache, play dough, beads, straws, macaroni, shells, etc. Ideally, learners should have access to this standard material all the time. They can use these resources during free play activities, structured activities when they have finished a teacher-directed task, or when they need “time out.” other resources include recyclable materials, glue, cardboard strips, CDs and musical instruments, old clothes, utensils, containers, puzzles, and manipulative educational toys.


In conclusion, teaching life skills in the Foundation Phase is essential for young learners’ holistic development. As a teacher, you should provide routine, structured, and free-play activities for learners that are enjoyable and manageable. You should also create a well-managed, child-friendly, and freely accessible environment and use various resources to support the learners’ development. By focusing on routine activities, free play activities, structured activities, perceptual skills, and resources required, you can create a comprehensive and practical life skills classroom conducive to learning.