7 brilliant techniques to support handwriting

What does a pig have in common with handwriting practice?


I’ve had a few conversations with people recently who have said how their child is struggling with handwriting.
I must admit when my 3 were young I did buy a lot of the pre-school/ early years books that support your child with creating various letter shapes. But they often just sat on the shelf after a few days and were money down the drain.
I bought them because I thought that was the best way to help your child learn to write. I had no other suggestions to hand.
With the benefit of experience as a parent, in educational settings, reading, learning and experimenting(!) I now have many other / better suggestions to offer.
Here are a few of my favourites. I hope there is something amongst them that inspires you too.


1. Colouring in

There is a huge craze at the moment for adults to take up colouring. It’s relaxing and helps you to unwind.
In addition, it’s also a great way for children to practice the fine motor skills needed to create legible handwriting. (I appreciate for a child with dyslexia or other similar SLD, there is more to it than just improving those fine motor skills).
But colouring is fun. It’s not patronising if presented properly and will no doubt be happily embraced.


2. Cutting, sewing, threading and popping bubble wrap!

Again, these are great ways to practice/ strengthen the fine motor skills needed to improve your writing skills.
A task I do with a lad I go to (he is dyslexic and autistic so talking and communication are 2 things we often focus on) is:
a) Colour in a range of pictures that all start with the same sound. All the while chatting about what we are colouring and the colours we are using.
b) Colour in a range of pictures that start with the same sound. The labels for the pictures have all been muddled up. Once we have finished colouring the pictures, we cut the words and the pictures out and glue them back down so that the words and pictures relate.
c) Finally, we colour the picture (all starting with the same sound) then write the word (free-hand) next to it.
All of these activities are purely focused on idle chatter, colouring and building confidence. Once we have these in place, we can then move onto putting the words into sentences, etc.


3. Gloop

I love gloop. Many people don’t love gloop because it’s messy!
Gloop is baking powder and water. It turns to a cold, smooth slime on the bottom of the container you are using. You can then trace the letters/ words into the gloop. The sensory experience is great. Even better, if you make a mistake, the evidence has vanished within seconds and it smooths itself away and becomes smooth again.

I often mention how learning is more productive if we use a range of sensory experiences and activities to help us learn. Each different activity helps us to create a new memory in our mind. This makes it easier for our brain to find this information when needed. (I won’t dwell on this too much as I have mentioned it many times in the past, but if you do want more information on it, please do ask in the comments below).

Therefore, Gloop is amazing because it is tactile and it is, so completely different to using a pen and writing in a text book.


4. Clay, plasticine and pipe cleaners

These are also fantastic methods of manipulating something so that you are left with a visual and sensory image of the letter/ word that you are trying to create.
It might take some practice to get the letters to look as you wish them to look. Always remember, that learning is more productive if it’s fun. Do these tasks together, enjoy the experience and watch the child’s confidence grow.


5. Using a variety of resources

Handwriting practice doesn’t need to be done with a pen and paper sat at a desk.
A couple of years back I worked with a couple of lads (both individually and completely unconnected) to improve their handwriting. The weather was nice so we made the most of the situation. Using large paint brushes and water we set about writing words and letters outside on the wall of the house and the patio. The letters could be as big as they liked as they would have evaporated within moments and would leave no last effects.
We also used large scraps of wall paper and chalks and other forms of resources needed to create marks.
Removing ourselves from the confines of the house and into the garden made it so much more enjoyable and memorable. We could “go large” initially to practice the shapes,/ sequence of letters, then as we perfected the skill, we could start to downsize and make the marks more and more precise.


6. Drawing letter pictures

A final idea that came to me as I’ve been writing this is a suggestion my mum gave to me many years back.
Pictures can easily be made from letters:


This pig has been drawn from a large “O” for the body, a “w” for each leg, an “m” for the ears and an “e” for his tail.
A swan can also be drawn by using 2 “2’s”.
Waves of the ocean can be created by using cursive “w’s” or flying birds can be drawn by adding a beak to an M.
By using the letters to create pictures, it’s far more entertaining than repeatedly writing a letter symbol for the sake of it.


Each week I send out an email, offering suggestions to parents on how they can use simple techniques to support their children at home.
If you would like to receive the email, just fill in the box below and let me know and I will happily send it to you as well.

Final suggestion that has just occurred to me.
Noughts and Crosses (Tic Tac Toe)!

letters for noughts and crosses
Instead of taking it in turns to draw a nought or a cross in the grid, pick a letter and use that to represent your square instead.
Enjoy the games and let me know how you get on in the comments below.


A simple times tables confidence boosting game

How to play noughts and crosses and teach your child their times tables at the same time

A game that takes two seconds to prepare, just requires a piece of paper and a pen and can help your child boost their times tables knowledge.

Sounds perfect!

That’s why I love noughts and crosses (tick tack toe) so much.

To create the game draw two horizontal lines approximately the same length.
Next draw to vertical lines, approximately the same length crossing the first two lines.

In each gap created write a number from 1 to 12.


That’s the game pretty much ready to play.

noughts and crosses

All you need to do now is decide which times table you are going to be focusing on. Who is going to be noughts and who is going to be crosses.

Like in the traditional version of the game the aim is to get 3 in a row: diagonally, vertically or horizontally.

noughts and crosses completed game
However, in this version of the game, before claiming your square you need to multiply the number in it by your chosen times table.

For example, if we are practising the 6x table and I want to take the top left square I would have to calculate what 6×7 is. The answer being 42.
Having stated the answer correctly, you can claim the square and the next person has a go.
This is the sort of game you can play anywhere at any time: waiting for the dinner to cook, on the back of a napkin in a café, stuck in a (stationary) traffic jam…

Have a go and let me know what you think.



I have recently compiled the 1 Million Times Tables Challenge. My goal is to support 1 million children gain confidence with their times tables.

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To find out more about it click here
The course is advertised at just £12. Not because I question its value but because I want to make it as accessible to as many people as possible.
If you believe that the £12 is still too much for you, let me know because for every one course that is sold, I will be giving another one away for free to a family on a low income, with a special needs child, a child in care or a young carer. If this is you and your interested, email me and let me know.
Speak soon

The 1 million times tables challenge

My 5 favourite games to teach the times tables

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If you have read any of my blogs before you will know that I am a firm believer that learning should be fun and boost confidence as well as knowledge.
I also believe the times tables are a paramount factor in becoming confident in maths.

Why do you need to make learning fun?

There are several reasons for this:

  • If the child is enjoying themselves they will be more likely to want to participate (practice).
  • The more the child practices the more likely they are to improve.
  • With improvement grows confidence. With confidence grows a willingness to have a go.

Why should learning be varied?

Over the past 18+ years of studying and working in educational settings (and with a keen interest to learn more about learning styles) what I have established is that we need to create a wide range of memories to store in our brain.
As we do this we are making it easier for the brain to find the relevant information when it is needed.
A variety of games helps with this.
(I have kept my logic here very short but I expand on it in far more detail in my e-book which is available as part of the Million times table challenge. Click here for more information.

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Noughts and crosses (Also known as tick tack toe)


noughts and crosses

This game is so easy to create.
As shown in the image you need to draw a grid which consists of 2 over lapping horizontal and vertical lines.
In each square you write a different number (normally from 1 to 12) but this can be higher if you want more of a challenge.)

Now choose which times table you want to focus on.

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You play the game in the same way that you would play noughts and crosses normally, except this time before you can claim your square you have to multiply the number in it by your chosen times table.
The winner is the first person to get 3 in a row, vertically, horizontally or diagonally.


This game is also very simple to create.
On a piece of paper write down 12 times tables questions and their corresponding answers.
Cut these up into pieces of paper, each the same size. You may choose to back them so that you can’t see through them and cheat…

Now place them all face down on the table.
Each player takes it in turns to turn over 2 pieces of paper.
If they have found a corresponding question and answer, you keep the pair and have another go.
If you haven’t, you place them back down on the table and the other person has a go.
The winner is the person with the most pairs at the end of the game.

Snakes and ladders

snakes and ladders

This game needs a bit more effort to prepare.
You will need to create a grid which is approximately 6 squares by 5. Then in each square write a times tables question focusing on the times table that you are learning.
You may also want to use relevant division questions.
Then draw in a selection of 3 snakes and 3 ladders.
This is your snakes and ladders board.
You will need a counter each and a dice to play the game.

As you move around the board you will need to answer each question as you land on it and go up the ladders and down the snakes as you fall prey to them.

It is harder work to create but it’s good fun and all the templates for the games are available in the “1 million times table challenge”.


For more information CLICK HERE


Lily Pads

Lily pads

This game is again very easy to create.

On a piece of paper write down the questions for the times table you are focusing on:

Now cut these out into individual squares and lay them out on the table in front of you.

You will need 2 counters each and like “Tiddly Winks” you have to take it in turns to flick your counter on to the squares (lily pads). If you get it on, you answer the question and keep it.
The person who has answered the most when there are none left wins.





Again, this takes a little bit of effort to prepare.
You will need to create 2 boards of 6 squares each. On each board you will need to write one of the questions related to the times tables you are practicing:

3×4, etc
Then cut out bits of paper with one answer on each.

You then take it in turns to pick up a piece of paper. If the answer on it relates to one of the questions on your board, you win that answer.

The first person to win all their answers is the ultimate winner.


I have flown through these games in minimal detail. I hope you get the gist though.
In the Million Times Tables challenge I go into them in far more detail using both videos and my e-book.

Download the first chapter here for FREE


You can also access all the templates for each individual game.
The challenge just cost £12 and can be accessed HERE

My goal behind the Million Times Table challenge is to try and help 1 million children become more confident with their times tables.
Every time one person purchases the course another person (child in care, with special needs or low-income family) will be given access to the course for free.
Please help me to reach my goal.

Again, details of the 1 Million Times Tables Challenge can be accessed HERE

If you want to nominate yourself or someone else you know for free access, please email me with the subject heading “nomination”.

5 ways to help your child learn whilst playing noughts and crosses


Who would have thought that with some very small amendments noughts and crosses could be made into an educational (but still fun!) game?


Do you find helping your child to revise or learn new things can be hard work? You want to make it fun for them but you’re not too sure how?

I want to show you how you can support your child with learning:

  1. their times tables,
  2. forming letters or numbers correctly
  3. extending their vocabulary,
  4. learning definitions,
  5. spellings,
  6. translating

through this one simple game.


The basic principle of how you play this game will remain the same throughout.

Draw yourself a grid consisting of 2 horizontal lines which are crossed by 2 vertical lines:



The game is meant for 2 players.

One of you will be a nought; the other player will be a cross.

Take it in turns to draw your nought or cross in the square with the intention of being the first to get a line of 3 either: diagonally, vertically or horizontally.

The first person to achieve this wins.



In this version of the game you need to decide which times table you are multiplying by before you start.

You now play the game as you would in the traditional method, however, before you can claim your square you need to multiply the number in it by your chosen times table.

For example supposing we have chosen to multiply by 8.

Use noughts and crosses to test your child's knowledge


If I wanted to go in the top left hand space and there was a number 11 written in it, I would have to work out the answer to 11 x 8 before I can write my cross in the gap.

Although I’ve suggested using times tables here, you could insert any sum into the square to be solved, I’ve put anything from making simple number bonds to 10, 20 or 100 to placing a simultaneous equation that needs solving in the square. Alternatively you could put in fractions that need converting to decimals or percentages or angles that need to be measured.

Adapt the game so that it is at a suitable level for your child or the child that you are working with.

Never make it too hard, a challenge is good but if it is too much of a challenge the child will lose heart and no longer want to participate.



Traditionally the purpose of the game has always been to use noughts and crosses to complete the square and achieve the line of three however this would be a good opportunity for children to practice writing digits that they struggle with. Many children get their b’s and d’s the wrong way round p’s and q’s are other letters that children find tricky to grasp or 5’s and S’s. Though these are the most common there are no doubt others letters which cause children issues.

So when you play the game, instead of using a nought or cross why not use these letters which are causing difficulties instead?

Be subtle about it. I might start with an “S” because that’s the first letter in our dog’s name “and perhaps you could start with a d because that’s the first letter of dog”.

Then in the next game I could perhaps do a “d” because we have a dog and you did d last time and “you could do “b” because your favourite colour is blue…


This will provide the necessary repetition needed to learn but in a less monotonous and more discrete way than endless worksheets and writing line after line of the letter.

rite animal is a bear”.

Before you start put a letter in each square of the grid (like you did for the times tables version but this time use letters instead).

Now pick a theme. It can be anything ranging from countries, food, animals or something that your child is learning about at school such as the personality traits of a character in a book they are reading as a class.

This time before you claim your square you need to think of a relevant word starting with that specific letter; for example if our theme was countries and the letters to choose from included an E, I would probably choose England as my country.

I could now put my nought or cross in the square containing an “E”.

If your child needs to think more creatively with their descriptive language, you could find a picture of something/someone and before claiming your square you would need to think of a work to describe the picture. You could put letters in there as a starting letter if you wished to make it more complicated or you could be allowed to place your word in any square.



Is there a short list of facts your child needs to learn:

  • Names of shapes
  • Dates in history
  • Scientific terms
  • Terminology used in a specific subject


Place one of the terms in each square.

This time before you are allowed to claim your square you have to give a definition to the meaning of the word located in that particular place.

As always the first person to get a line of 3 wins.

If your child brings home spellings each week to learn this can be an additional method for learning them.

This version of the game will be more appropriate as the child starts to become familiar with the words in the list.

For this version of the game a word from the spelling list needs to be written in the square before it can be claimed, if the child is struggling offer guidance but try not to do it for them.

Alternatively, if you child is still learning their phonics blends you could put one in each square and ask the child to think of a word containing that letter or blend.




This game could be done in two ways:

  1. You could write a word in each square which needs to be translated into the appropriate language before the square can be claimed
  2. You could have a picture in the square. You would need to name what this item is (in the appropriate language) before been able to claim the square.


I hope from here you can see how one simple game can be so easily adapted to help with so many areas of learning.

I am a firm believer that if you are enjoying yourself you are inevitably more relaxed. If you are relaxed you are more susceptible to taking in new information.

The point of noughts and crosses is that it’s a game and games are supposed to be fun. Please remember this as it will help the child’s confidence and enthusiasm to participate.

In this respect I think we’re all the same: if we’re enjoying ourselves we will show more enthusiasm and a greater willingness to get involved and learn.

I hope you enjoyed reading this blog, if you did please share it with your friends. I’d love to hear your comments below. Thank you for your support and for helping me spread the idea that learning should be an enjoyable experience for our children. As you write your letters down, say it out loud to reinforce the letter your writing.