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What’s the best way to help your child learn the basics? There are many answers to this question but one thing’s for sure; making it fun and hands-on is important to motivate them and help the learning stick.

Hands-on learning is the process of learning by doing, moving and experiencing something, rather than just being told about it. The term “hands-on” is used because these activities usually involve the physical use of the hands, body or objects – for example children might use manipulative such as counting cubes and sorting objects to understand mathematical concepts, rather than just being taught the theory via books or pencil and paper exercises. Hands-on learning is particularly important for children, as this is how they are programmed to learn. Children learn from observing, copying, and experimenting with their hands and body as soon as they are born, and this continues to be the most important way of learning new skills until they reach school age and beyond.

We asked Home-School Tutoring Bath to share some of their creative, hands-on, tops tips for helping your child master the basics such as learning their times tables and key words.


Your child will learn a different group of times tables each year at school. Regardless of which ones they are currently practicing, these ideas can be used across all ages.


The first step to learning times tables is to be able to confidently step count. Step count means counting out loud in number steps. For example, step counting in 8’s looks like this: “8, 16, 24, 32, 40, 48” etc. Make this fun and hands-on by using either a ball or your child’s favourite soft toy to throw and catch back and forth between each other. Whoever is throwing says the number that comes next. Can you challenge yourselves to step count backwards or start at any number rather than the first one?


Play your favourite music and every time it stops your child freezes like a statue and answers the times table fact that you give them. If they don’t know them off by heart yet, encourage them to count up on their fingers using their step counting skills.


Divide a pack of cards in half (taking out the Kings, Queens and Jacks) and place the times tables you are practicing in one pile and the rest in another pile. For example, if you’re practicing the 6, 7, 8 and 9 times tables put all these numbers in one pile and the rest of the numbers in the other pile. Place both piles face down and take it in turns to pick one card from each pile and multiply the numbers together. Whoever scores the biggest answer keeps all four cards. Who has collected the most cards at the end of the game?


Just like the game Rock, Paper, Scissors but instead of the traditional actions, you put up

different numbers of fingers instead. Who is quickest to multiply the two numbers together? Make it trickier by using both hands rather than just one so you have up to ten fingers each rather than only five.


Using an egg box, write the numbers 1-12 in the bottom of each space. Place two marbles inside the egg box and close the lid. Shake the egg box, open the top, and then multiple whichever two numbers the marbles have landed on.


Like times tables, your child will have a different group of key words or common exception words to learn each year as they move through school. The aim is for them to be able to read these words by sight and spell them from memory. Developmentally, children learn to read before they learn to write, so starting with confidently reading their set of key words before moving onto spelling them is a great place to start. Here are some ideas to make the experience fun and hands-on.


Pick some key word flashcards and set them up in a bingo grid. You say a word and if your child has that word on their bingo grid they place an object such as a pompom or button on top of the word. Once they’ve covered all their words they shout BINGO! Encourage them to read and say the word as they place the object on top.


Set up a Jenga tower (or something similar such as Pop-up Pirate or Operation). Place a pile of key word flashcards next to the Jenga tower and take it in turns to read the word on the top of the pile and then push a Jenga block out. Keep going until the tower topples. Can you keep the tower standing until all the words in the pile have been read?

GUESS WHICH! (best suited to year 3 upwards)

Have a pile of key word flashcards facedown between you. One person picks the card from the top of the pile and holds it without the other person seeing it. The person who is not holding a card has to ask questions to guess which word it is. Questions could include: “Does this word have more consonants than vowels?”, “Is this word a verb?”, “Is this word a homonym?”, “Does this word have more than one meaning?”, “Does this word contain a split diagraph?”


Use your key word flashcards to set up a car park; each flashcard is a parking space. Gather your children’s favourite toy cars and line them up ready to get ‘parked’. You say a word and your child has to find and read the word and choose a car to drive and park on top of the card.


Choose a selection of key word flashcards that your child is currently learning and hide them around the room while your child closes their eyes. Challenge them to find all the hidden words and read and say each word when they find it. How quickly can they find them all? You could set a timer and challenge them to find them faster each time.

If you would like a free PDF copy of the times tables and/or key words for your child’s year group, please just send me an email or WhatsApp message, letting me know which year group your child is in, and I would be delighted to pop one over to you. Happy Learning!

WhatsApp: 07810 170669

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