Toddlers: from 18 months to 36 months

The Department of Basic Education (DBE) has articulated Life Skills as a subject that exposes children and youth 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 


Problem Solving

  • Toddlers can now walk and run around playfully but they are still experimenting with solutions to movement challenges such as climbing stairs and getting hold of things far from their reach.

Tip: Provide outside spaces for toddlers to move by climbing, walking, crawling and maneuvering such as your backyard garden or the park.

  • Toddlers often become frustrated when they cannot solve a problem and often show this by crying or becoming angry. Frustration-management is an important life-long skill.

Tip: Help toddlers to deal with frustration by showing them questions to ask and steps to take. Help them learn to say: “Please help me with this” OR “I can’T do it “ OR “What should I do?”



  • Toddlers can use creative play to communicate their feelings. They might not always be able to explain verbally why they are feeling angry, depressed, happy or frightened, but in an encouraging environment, they might be able to express these feelings using paint, colour, movement or music.

Tip: Encourage and offer the child a broad variety of ways to express themselves creatively. Use words and show those words, for example: “I am happy. This is my happy face.” OR “It is alright to be sad. Let us sit together and hug when you are sad”

  • It’s important to let toddlers do their own thing when it comes to creative play. Toddlers continue to play ‘make believe’ games and find more complex games. These games will be mainly about home life and relationships with adults and involve playing together with other toddlers.

Tip: Give a lot of time each day for free play.  The toddler should play without direction from the adult other than for safety reasons. Adult supervision of children at all times remains critical.


Visual Arts

  • Toddlers love activities like finger-painting, pasting, colouring pictures, and folding or ripping paper. These activities might be a bit messy, but they have immense value and help them develop their fine motor skills as they use their fingers and feet.

Tip: Give them free reign and do not be obsessed with clean-and-tidy. Also let them showcase their beautiful creations to family and friends. This enhances their confidence and makes their efforts feel special and appreciated.

  • At this age, children are still learning about shapes and lines and ways of drawing and playing with them. Whether toddlers end up with a finished product or not is not important, the most important thing is for them to explore their creative impulses and self-expression.

Tip: A painting might look like spaghetti to you, but if it is a tree to the toddler or a portrait of you! Encourage them, celebrate their art work, and always ask what the picture is of rather than guess incorrectly.


Music, Dance and Drama

  • Drama, music, dance and visual art foster creativity and imagination in toddlers. These activities also help young children develop their senses through exploration and discovery.

Tip: For instruments, you can make a drum out of a plastic container and a wooden spoon, or put rice into a well-sealed plastic bottle to make a shaker. Allow for noise sometimes.

  • Singing encourages toddlers to use words and helps develop their memories. Toddlers’ memories are not fully developed yet so they will only be able to remember a few words at a time.

Tip: Sing nursery rhymes from any of the languages spoken at home. Sing with them and put actions to the words as you sing them. An example is raising your hands up high and flicking your fingers while singing, “Twinkle, twinkle, little star”

  • Dance helps toddlers to develop their hand-eye coordination.  It is also great exercise. It does not matter whether they keep in time to the music, or follow any set movements – the activity is the physical movement is the  most important thing.

Tip:  Encourage dance by getting them to walk, balance, jump, gallop and hop in response to music or chanted words. Join in!