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Helping Your Children at Home

During these strange and distressing times, parents are having to step up to the plate, and we're here to help!


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I'm concerned that parents might feel that they have to be the teacher, whereas they're in the unique position of making learning more fun!

Great idea, I will share this with parents I know 🙂

Thanks Hannah, you're a star, we're here to play our part in this nightmare that is Coronovirus!

Hi there!

Hope everyone is keeping well.

I have been helping my daughter (age 6) with her writing assignments for school over the last couple of weeks and noticed that she tires very easily when writing. I’m concerned she may not have developed the correct pencil grip, and I’m not quite sure what to do about it!  Is this something you are able to shed some light on? Many thanks in advance!

Practising the correct pencil grip is really important from the start as poor motor habits can so easily become permanent.Left to themselves young children can develop weird grips resulting in bad habits forming which can be hard to eradicate  later. You only have to look as the strange way some adults hold their pens. Young children move through stages of fine motor development and placing a  pencil in their hands too early and expecting them to write without strengthening their shoulders and hands can result in immature grips. Initially the movement comes from their shoulder and ultimately refines to the wrist and hand. It is important to recognise this and to encourage motor activities that strengthen shoulders arms and hands and especially fingers.Children mature at different ages. When the muscles of the hand are weak or when the fingers have not yet learnt to work together, the child may develop a compensatory grip

The accepted typical tripod grip is where the index finger is placed on top of the barrel and the thumb and second finger placed each side. To  encourage this grip there are some simple fun activities that can help to strengthen the fingers.

•Picking up peas and putting into a pot-picking up with just index finger and thumb.
• Posting matchstick through holes in a colander
• Picking up leaves
• Activities to encourage use of the index finger e.g. finger   painting with their index finger.
Strengthen hands by making dough, screwing up paper, moving a tennis ball across the table using fingers only.
The index finger guides the writing and so it is important to strengthen this. Ask your child to place their index finger on top of the pencil and their thumb and second finger each side. Make a bridge with the index finger and show them that this is the correct grip. Now ask them to take their pencil for a walk across the page, make scribbles, straight lines and circles, large and then small- moving from a shoulder movement to a wrist movement. Practice writing just letters once the grip is maintained..
Use pencil grips to remediate a bad habit as a last resort.- Consider different pencil grips

Experiment with different size pencils. Some children prefer a thicker or thinner barrel. Children have different size fingers and the gap between their thumb and index finger may also differ. No one single pencil is comfortable for everyone. Try the rocket writer training pencil on our website

Do let us know if these ideas have been useful and keep us posted.

If there's anybody out there who would like to add to this advice re pencil grip from their own expeience, then we'd love to hear from you. I would just add that many children who go on to have poor pencil grip seem to initially have trouble picking up a pencil. They either use the whole hand or else hold the implement between their thumb and middle finger, leaving their first/index/pointing finger sticking up out of the way. The whole hand grip is a perfectly normal developmental stage which nrmally refines as the child matures, but it is essential that the pincer grip between the thumb and index finger develops next. If it doesn't, then it requires training and stregthening as suggested in the above post. The middle finger becomes a resting position for the pincer grip of the thumb and index finger in a mature grip.


Have you got any idea's for my eight year old son who is struggling to remember is Multiplication tables, I have tried a few things but nothing I have suggested is working for him I wondered if you have any simple tricks we can apply that may help him remember them.

Would really appreciate your help

Many thanks, Bernie

Hi Bernie, thanks for your query and I'm delighted to offer you some suggestions and advice though no single response will fit all.  My experience with children who struggle to remember their times tables is that there is an unrealistic expectation of just how long it takes for some children to automatically recall table facts even when they appear to be able to count in 5's or 3's or 7's.... or recite a table 1x4=4, 2x4=8, 3x4 =12 etc. They still fail to automatically respond to 3x4 without needng to use fingers or count from the beginning of the table. It seems to be acceptable to expect children to learn a table one week, ready for a test the following week and then move in the next week onto to another table. There is actually enough time at primary level for learners to focus on one table for a whole term!

Many learners with memory difficulties and/or dyslexia struggle to find the 'echo' in their head that gives them the response to 7 x 7 = (49). We don't expect to have to work it out, the answer 'pops' into our head, as it does with all sequences that have to be learnt by heart - January, February, March, (April),  or  l m n o p (q),

I would recommend you focus on a single table eg 5's and write it out on a piece of card for your son to read and chant rhythmically. I would suggest you focus on the table up to 10x . Schools require that tables are learnt up to 12x but the extra table facts can be added in later. He reads it through twice, focus on the first two lines, tell your son to put the copy behind his back and try to remember the first two lines before bringing the card out from behind his back and carrying on reading the rest of the table rhymically. Then take the table card away and ask him to write out the table, he'll probably just use a repeated addition approach.

Repeat this every day, expecting him to perhaps remember three facts over the next week. It is vital that he does not move on from those three until what he has already learnt is automatic. That means he can respond to you asking for the number facts out of order. eg what is 2X4? All this practice is creating that 'echo' that is required when table facts need to be automatically recalled.

We have created resources that help with this practice. We have produced a set of colour-coded cards with a table written on each card eg the 4x table is on a yellow dry wipe card. The tables 2-9 are covered. There is no need to learn the 10x table by reciting, as the words themselves are  a clue to the answers six - sixty, seven- seventy etc. Using this routine makes the learning multisensory, he 'sees' the table, he 'says' the table, he 'writes' the answers in the table.

We have also produced a fun game to practise what they have learnt. This game has colour-coded cards that match the colour on the card used to learn their table. The hope is that they  see the answers in different coulors and start to recognise that, for example, the number 24 is a very busy number and appears in purple, yellow, orange and brown as it appears in the 3x, 4x, 6x, and 8x tables. This appreciation of the factors of different numbers becomes very important when considering division and fractions later.

Please feel free to ask further questions if anything I've written is unclear. Others' views/coments always welcome too.



Please can you recommend a useful resource for a secondary child related to study skills. Thank You.

A very useful book designed to be  'dyslexia friendly' but very useful for secondary pupils generally, is

'The Study Skills Handbook By Stella Cottrell. It is printed in blue and full of visual examples and illustrations.

I would recommend this.