Times Tables: The Best 3 Apps

By Caroline Hood

So are Times Tables difficult to learn? Fun even? No! – Never! You all cry, or at least, not when I was at school! But these days learning is different at school and at home. And I’d really like to share with you, and hopefully demystify the illusion of, times tables being boring or difficult, with a few apps that I’ve used a lot to help children learn their tables.

So here we go.


First up – the app I love for learning your times tables, is Squeebles Times Tables 2 – this is because it has a built in feature for ‘learning’ your tables, which others don’t have. Most other apps provide visually interesting practise opportunities, which don’t get me wrong, is good, and more on that later, but in the first instance we need to learn them. In Squeebles Times Tables 2 they have an option called  ‘Step -by-Step Training’. It introduces your child to the questions one at a time and builds up their memory of the sequence, it also gives them a Brain Break after every mini test of the questions introduced so far, in the form of a quick game. This has been a great way for kids to learn to tackle a new times table.



On to the best app for practising your tables, with three levels of difficulty, is DK 10 Minutes a Day Times Tables. It has a cool racing car theme, with races against another racing car and against the clock. It test your child’s knowledge of the times table sequence. The next level tests the times table out of sequence and the final level has missing numbers, whereby there is a need for the reciprocal understanding of the division skills. Always remind your child that 2×5=10 and 5×2=10, then 10 divided by 2 =5 and 10 divided by 5=2.

blank cardsIn addition, when children are learning a new times table – I write, or have the child write, the sequence on a set of blank cards. This can be laid in front of the child to help with recall of the sequence, and as their confidence grows, I have them turn over the numbers within the sequence they find easy to remember. Just leaving the more tricky ones.


Finally, the app I find children like the best when they have mastered a times table is Number Run.

Number run

It’s a fast paced, fun and visually appealing app, that sets the heart racing and develops an inner need to get all the questions right. One tip I share with children, when they first play, is the Pause Button. I do this, as this gives a little thinking time, and a breather sometimes to get used to the pace of the game. It doesn’t take long for the children to build up their stamina and speed in order to achieve the reward of getting them all right and not needing to use the pause button.

What order is best to learn our Times Tables?

First up 10x, (links with money) 2x (links with even numbers) and then 5 x (links with time).

Next 3x and 4x  children often notice the fun sequence of 11x around this time.

Remember to share the division facts of these times tables at this time too – with a link to fractions of a number 1/5 of 30 is the same as 30 divided by 5.

After, try 6x and 8x (these are double the 3x and 4 x tables – remember to show the connection)

The last ones are usually 9x, 12x and 7x (not necessarily in this order.)

Alternatively, 12x can be included when you show the doubling connection of the 3x to the 6x tables.

Finally, Maths is all about real life and making connections with it, as well as other maths they already know. Keep on connecting!


Writing – how to get our children interested.



Writing ideas for all ages

It’s a skill all our kids need practise at, but rarely are interested to try unless we beg, cajole or bribe them. I’d like to share a couple of apps, strategies and resources, that might inspire, encourage and ignite the inner writers inside our children.

It very very important that children have a reason to write.

Here are some of the ways I’ve got my own children to start writing, sometimes with amazing and surprising results.

Postcards and Email

Whilst on holiday, ask your child to choose a postcard, and write one sentence to a friend, teacher or Granny and Grandpa about what they are doing, they may just be interested to write another couple of sentences or want to write to more than one person. If they are losing interest or becoming tired, offer to write the address. Keep the activity light and not a chore or something that is compulsory. Remember its a holiday activity.

Or send an electronic postcard via email app for kids called Maily. This is a completely safe, made just for kids email service, where children only send and receive email to addresses you choose (Nanny and Grandad, cousins, parents) and you will see every copy of the sent and received emails too. For more info click on the link. https://www.maily.com/


Holiday Diary

I was asked to write a holiday diary as a child, and whilst I didn’t hate it – I didn’t love it. I did like choosing the postcards to stick in and adding the entrance tickets of places we visited. Having said that, some children will love doing this kind of activity, especially if they choose a new book to write in and a set of new pens to write with. However, others may need the added incentive of technology. This can achieve the same end, with hopefully an added interest and a development of their technology skills at the same time.

In our family we use Book Creator – you can add photos from the web, via saving from the internet, or take photos with your tablet to use later in the diary. It can be written in a diary or comic style – the possibilities for presentation are endless. My 5 and 7.5 year old both enjoy using this.


Planning a meal or baking a cake

What a great reason to write a list! This idea isn’t a new one, but one that I was reminded of last summer when my friend decided to do a cooking playdate. They firstly read the recipe together, decided what they needed to buy, the children wrote the shopping list and went (supervised) shopping for what they needed.  The holidays can give children more time to develop life skills – in this example; reading, decision making, dealing with money and weighing out the ingredients needed for cooking/baking, and possibly others that haven’t sprung to mind so readily.

Who can write quiz questions for the family?

Another idea developed from a conversation with a friend. In our family we like a couple of age appropriate BrainQuest questions before bed, but I’ve heard other families like to quiz each other at meal times or in the car too. Why don’t you challenge your children to write 5 questions that they think will stump Mum or Dad and have them read them out at family quiz time.

Early learners in writing

Perhaps you have little ones that are just beginning to form their letters, some may be very willing to practise writing letters or you may have a reluctant child or one that likes it to be perfect, either way, try watching BBC CBeebies show on YouTube – Get Squiggling Letters. Each programme showcases one letter of the alphabet and shows how to write it, with examples that are animated and with real children practising too. Apps that can practise letter formation using the tablet are Blackbeards Alphabet, Hairy Letters and Pocket Phonics.



There have been many blog posts devoted to journalling, that can do it greater justice than I can in this article. It is something that is ongoing and often not just a holiday activity. So I will defer to those with greater knowledge and add links for this one:

Journalling from Homeschooling ideas – http://www.homeschooling-ideas.com/journaling-for-kids.html

Journal Buddies – http://journalbuddies.com/

Journalling with an artistic twist – http://artfulparent.com/2012/01/guest-post-beginning-art-journaling-for-kids.html







The Best Apps for a Long Journey.



By Caroline Hood

As the summer holidays draw near, it’s the time of year that a lot of us go on long journeys either on a plane and/or in the car, so after many requests, I’ve put together a range of apps, to suit as many ages as possible. I’ve tried to err away from completely educational apps, whilst attempting not to choose a completely time wasting selection either.

All the apps have been tried and tested by my family and myself, I hope they entertain yours too and reduce the frequency of the staple phrases, ‘I’m bored’ or ‘are we nearly there yet?’

Please go to the App Store or Google Play to download or look at the web links for any additional information you may require.

  1. Busy Things– http://www.busythings.co.uk/

These fun quirky apps are available on both platforms Apple and Android, they are appealing to children from ages 2-7. They’ve all been created by educators with learning in mind, and have easy playability!

They include, watch and listen traditional tales, such as the Three Little Pigs and The Ginger-Bread ManFeed the Monkey, that helps with early counting skills and great Problem Solving Games like: Line UpTunnel Trouble and Falling Wall. All of these have been played many, many times and loved by my children.

One app developed by them for children aged 4-9 (depending on the level played – Levels 1-5) is Miner Birds Mental Maths. It’s a fun maths game, that appeals to ALL children and has options to play against the computer or in a 2 or 3 player mode, so it can include other members of the family on a journey too!

  1. Squeebles– http://keystagefun.co.uk/

These are great range of educational apps that I recommend over and over to families for helping with practising skills and homework. But the one I’m going to recommend for long journey is: Squeebles Wordsearch.

  1. Coding apps and resources 

I’m sure a lot of you have been reading articles about how coding will prove important for your child to learn. The summer holidays can be the best time, when there’s more time available away from busy schedules. Try Hopscotch and Lightbot apps and the Code.org website to get started.

My Robot Friend by Leapfrog – a big favourite in our house doesn’t seem to be available on the Hong Kong App Store anymore – try other app stores you have available to you – link for more info: https://www.commonsensemedia.org/app-reviews/my-robot-friend

  1. Last Summer’s Favourite for us http://motionmathgames.com/motion-math-pizza

Pizza! by Motion Math is a business game incorporating a range of maths skills e.g. times tables, setting prices, comparing prices, then reading graphs on customers preferences. Recommended for age 8+, however my 6.5 year old who was good at her tables could play. To start playing – keep it simple – set prices for pizzas at times tables your child is familiar with e.g. 2x tables, and support them as they play and get familiar with the set up. (Only available on Apple devices.) The next app in the series for older children is called Cupcake! by Motion Math.

  1. Reading and Books

Try the Kindle App and download a selection of books to your tablet for the journey. Or look for books available through apps: Nighty NightDr Seuss, Disney or DreamWorks Stories and Me Books (Peppa Pig, Oxford Reading Tree etc) to name a few.

  1. Drawing Apps

I am only including a couple of suggestions here, mainly because my children don’t use drawing apps very often and skip off them quite quickly. The ones they have played with are Disney Creativity Studio and Mr Pencil HD (they have a special pen to use with both of these apps) and the one a friend recommended is Drawing Pad.

  1. Planning Games

These can be highly addictive and usually have in-app purchases, which is why they are a long way down my list. Some like Minecraft or Disney’s Nemo’s Reef require a WIFI connection, so cannot really be played on long journeys.

New from Disney is – Build it – Frozen, as a family we haven’t played this much, but it is hit (only available on some Apple devices)

  1. Lego and Fisher Price

Both of these well known brands have free apps my children have loved and/or still love playing, easy and familiar – with minimal need for parent supervision.

I’d like to finish with a couple of tips:

  1. If you have different ages of children and you want them to have different (age appropriate) games to play, then put their apps/games in a folder with their name.
  2. If you have a child that keeps pressing the home button and/or a short attention span, you might want to set up Guided Access – this fixes the iPad to one game for a length of time specified by you. This is free and built into your device. For Android, there is a free download calledSureLockthat works in a similar way. https://www.42gears.com/android-equivalent-of-ios-guided-access-mode




And So We Begin…..


This has been a long time coming, as many of you who know me can attest – my talk and lack of action and then subsequent procrastination has been lengthy (about 3 years -ish). So hence, there will be a dedication at the end of the post to the lady that galvanised me and challenged me to start this by giving me a deadline. Which is the best way I work!!!! 

So I will keep this short as the point of this blog post is to get going and there are other ideas and snippets of wisdom ahead 😉 

In short, I am a Stay at Home Mum (SAHM) and teacher (currently not full time) and began researching early years development when my first child was born. I read everything going and my first born was a willing guinea pig for me to try, the play based strategies for learning, I came across. My second child, however was not so willing…. more on that in the future. 

Where I am now is that I am still working with my own children, but in addition to this, I help other families too. I tutor children and adults, but offer support ideas to parents, on how to help with homework, how children learn to read and suitable apps to practise skills they need.

This is what this blog will essentially be about! and it’ll be place I will archive the information I have been already sharing and the place I put my new thinking/ideas and support as questions and suggestions arise.

To finish, I’d like to thank Catherine Stewart for asking me to write something for the HKHub http://thehkhub.com/ as this is what has forced me to put my info out there on the scary big interweb.