Month: September 2016

Handwriting Breakthrough – Helping Your Child with their Handwriting

Handwriting Breakthrough – Helping Your Child with their Handwriting

Woo hoo! It’s finally happened, we have had a breakthrough! I have to admit, I’ve beginning to stress quite a bit about B’s handwriting skills, but today we’ve had a major improvement, so I probably shouldn’t have worried quite so much.

Handwriting has always been a tricky issue in this house. B could write sentences with magnets from 2 years old, and I assumed that he would make the transition to writing with ease, but it never happened. He would construct the simplest sentences when under pressure to do so, and after consulting with paediatricians we discovered the combination of hyper mobility in his fingers and a major crash of confidence was really affecting his ability to write.

Over the past year or so we have tried various different pencils, with varying degrees of success, using pencil grips and a leaning board to help with writing, and using an assortment of fun activities to strengthen hand grip. We’ve bought many new toys and activities from The Happy Puzzle Company which have been invaluable in building B’s confidence and hand grip strength. A great piece of advice that I received from a friend was to work with games and ideas that didn’t have a specific goal or exact and correct method behind them. Children can really lose their confidence when they can’t do something, so let them just derive pleasure from the activity without a specific end goal.

We’ve used a huge range of construction toys from the traditional Lego and Knex to the slightly more unusual teifoc bricks which I’d highly recommend. Using clay, play dough and plasticine is back on the agenda. We’ve made a big effort to get outside more, building a mud kitchen, water ways, an around the world gardening project, and  turning  the tuff tray into a desert garage type play area.

It went against every fibre of my being to improve a skill, by doing anything but the skill itself, but it actually worked! The reverse “s” is now almost entirely the right way around, the back to front “f” is now right half of the time, and letters are going on lines with ascenders and descenders in the right place. B is so much happier that he doesn’t have to decipher every sentence for his audience, and I am mightily relieved that it worked.

If your child needs a little help with fine motor skill development to assist their hand writing, these are our top tips:

  • Painting with cars – take a couple of old toy cars, dip the wheels in paint, and drive over the paper.
  • Get digging – in sand or earth, with fingers or with tools. It’s a world away from writing, but good for exercising little hands.
  • Playdough, plasticine and clay – plasticine and clay can be a little tougher than Playdough, but using tools can help. It’s also quite good for getting frustrations out on, if your child is feeling fed up.
  • Using tweezers. Games like Operation are good for this, we also found a great game called Fruitfall, which is better if your child is wary of noisy games.
  • Play games! Games like Kerplunk are good for concentration on fine motor skills and good fun too.
  • Get building – Lego and Knex are the obvious choices, but it’s also worth looking at Joinks and some of the lesser known brands if your child isn’t necessarily drawn to the more popular ones.

If you’ve tips that worked for you and your children do let us know we’d love to hear!

Test Tube Rainbows – Splitting Colour Experiment

Test Tube Rainbows – Splitting Colour Experiment

We’ve had great fun with this experiment today, and it’s super simple to do. If you have any test tubes to use they are ideal, but you could use any glass container that you have to hand. Appealing to children of all ages, the great thing with this experiment is they can all get involved and take from it what is relevant to them.


  • 7 test tubes (or glass receptacle)
  • Red, yellow and blue colours (we used cosmetic colourant, but food colour would work just as well)
  • Pipettes


  1. Fill all of the test tubes around half full with water.
  2. Add the blue, red and yellow colour to three of the test tubes.
  3. Line the test tubes up with the three colours going into their correct places in the rainbow colour sequence.
  4. Using the pipettes, take colours from the primary colour tubes and make up the missing colours.


We managed to make the rainbow from our 3 primary colours! The experiment is good fun in itself, but it’s also good as a place to start further investigation. We’ve been trying to make rainbows with a prism and seeing how close our colours match. If you’ve any further rainbow ideas to add, be sure to share them with us!

Creating a Clutter Free Life

Creating a Clutter Free Life

I have to confess we are a bit messy in this house. Well not even a bit. Really messy. We seem to have taken mess to a new extreme and its beginning to drive me a bit crazy. I’m fairly certain that the problem stems from us all being rather untidy. Having lived with clean freaks in the past, I think not only do I make more effort to tidy up, they probably clean up around me. But having three of you in a house, who not only make the place look like a tip, but also have no problem with everyone else’s mess, it was only a matter of time before we tipped over the edge.

So its out there. We are a messy family. I’m wondering if admitting it is part of the solution, and slowly I can retrain my brain to become a nurturer of neat?

I wonder if there is a messy gene? Is it a nature versus nurture debate? Could it be true what Einstein said?

“If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk a sign?”

  • Albert Einstein

I’ve been telling myself that we are messy because of our busy brains for years, but all of a sudden its not cutting it anymore. In fact I have a whole list of reasons that I tell myself and others:

  • We’re eclectic and creative. Tidying up would stifle this.
  • Our brains are too full of ideas to worry about tidying up.
  • All the great thinkers throughout history were probably messy.
  • Untidyness is a sign of intelligence.
  • Tidying up is for grown ups.
  • How will I ever find anything if I tidy it all away?

I have even thought about pretending that I am embracing “strewing” as part of our home education philosophy, but that’s just a bit of a lie. So where does all this mess come from? We just seem to have too much stuff. All of us. And we are all absolutely hopeless at parting with any of it. Yesterday we were discussing how we might redo our kitchen in the near future, and it left B in tears. He finds change a challenge, but even highlighting to him that a new oven would bring the return of his favourite dinner wasn’t swinging it. He is adamant things should stay as they are. In fact I’m certain we all think that we are not quite as untidy as each other. So how are we ever going to get anyway? The man and I have duplicates of DVDs, of films we will probably never watch again, but who’s copy do we give away/sell/pop on eBay? It’s a never ending cycle of toot.

I have a feeling its going to need some kind of multi step plan. We need to reduce our clutter, address the storage, and get out of some bad habits. Last night I had a count and we have 7 games of Monopoly. Yep, 7. Which would be fine if we played on a regular basis, but I couldn’t tell you the last time we played! From old X-Box and PS3 games which haven’t been played since around 2008, to wooden train track B had when he was 2 years old, our house is slowly becoming a museum.

I am going to try and lead by example and start by clearing out my own collections. From clothes that, in reality, I am never going to wear again, through to my beloved Jimmy Choo’s that live in a box under the bed, it’s time to get ruthless!

B has said that he can cope with finding 3 things a day to get rid of until we are tidier. What I didn’t realise is that he didn’t seem to mean 3 of his own things!

So at least for now we have an action plan, and we’ve made a start. We should be minimalist within a month at this rate!

Non School Uniform Shopping

Non School Uniform Shopping

It’s coming to the end of the school holidays (we are a home ed family that takes advantage of them), and although we don’t have a uniform per se, it’s got me thinking about clothing supplies that B needs. The one major thing I noticed when we first started home educating was that B didn’t actually have that many clothes any more. With the bulk of his time spent in uniform, he had comfy gear for after school, jeans for the weekend and one or two smart outfits for “best”. Within a couple of weeks his jeans had been destroyed! Back to spending hours on the floor building LegoKnex and Hex Bugs, the knees on the jeans were spent. So now I’m on a mission to find clothes that are a match for a home educated child! We are big fans of Boden in this house, for the both of us, so we shall be sourcing plenty from there. B likes to pore over the catalogue choosing himself many an outfit over breakfast so that will be our first port of call. I’ve also found that outdoor adventure type clothes work well when busy engineering in the front room, or climbing a mountain, so a trip to Mountain Warehouse is probably due.

As much as it can be tempting to stock up on cheap gear, it seems a false economy to me. We’ve been able to get a couple of years wear from some of B’s favourites, which pleases the both of us!

The other thing B goes through like there’s no tomorrow is socks! I swear he can wear a pair out in a day. I’ll be pairing them up and notice the heels are missing, it’s almost like we need some kind of reinforcement!

So we need something hard wearing, not made from animal products, child friendly and from an ethical company. Not too much to ask?

If anyone has any awesome clothing finds to share, we’d love to know!

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