6 Tips for Correcting Pencil Grip

Learning the proper pencil grip can be a little tricky for kids–and it’s so important for handwriting! If they learn how to grip the pencil incorrectly and are allowed to continue without correction, it is a hard habit to break. Thankfully, there are methods to correcting pencil grip in kids. It will take some work and reminders, but it can be done. Here are a few of my favorite tricks for correcting proper pencil grip.

6 Tips for Correcting Pencil Grip with helpful how-to videos

Fine Motor Play

Before kids even pick up a pencil they should be immersed in fine motor play. Babies start working on the fine motor skills needed for writing when they start picking up small snacks off their highchair. There are lots of basic play activities for developing fine motor skills that can be set up easily with things around the house. See my Developing Fine Motor Skills Series if you need ideas.

Use Smaller Writing Tools

Try giving your child a golf pencil, broken crayon/chalk, or crayon rocks for a twist on the traditional. The smaller size of these items naturally requires children to use the correct pencil grip because there is less surface area.

The Sock Method

It may look silly, but the sock trick is really easy. Just take an old sock and cut two holes. Have your child put the sock on their hand, putting their thumb and index finger through the holes. The rest of the hand can curl up together and take a nap inside.

The Pom Pom Method

Place a pom pom or another small item in between the last two fingers and your child’s palm. This will force your child to keep those extra fingers under and out of the way while they hold their pencil.

The “OK” Method

Tell your child to make the OK sign with their fingers. Tell them to open the circle a little and place the pencil in between their fingers. Then, tell them to curl their other fingers under.

The Pinch & Flip Method

Tell your child to lay the pencil in front of them with the point of the pencil pointing away from them. Tell them to pick up their pencil with their thumb and index finger–this is the pinch part. Then, have them gently push the pencil so it flips around and rests properly. Easy!

After they’ve been shown the correct grip, gentle reminders are appropriate. It may require you to do some “hand-over-hand” instruction (where you physically help them get their pencil grip correct), but with time, they will start to get the hang of it. If your child is having a hard time at the beginning of holding a pencil and writing, I would suggest taking a step back and working on some fine motor skills activities to strengthen their finger muscles and playfully practice pencil holding techniques. Many fine motor skills activities naturally encourage the proper tripod grip. I’ve written about this often, so see my recommended Fine Motor Skills Resource list below.

Recommended Resources for Developing Fine motor Skills

What are Fine Motor Skills and why develop them?
Developing Fine Motor Skills Series (10 posts with recommended activities & fine motor skills)
The Ultimate Guide to Fine Motor Skills
100 Household Items for Fine Motor Skills
10 Ways to Boost the Power of Playdough

Brain Chase: Summer Learning Adventure for Kids

Homeschool Mom Confession: By the time we hit summer, I’m feeling done with anything that looks like learning…and so is my school-age son. Chances are, your kids feel that way, too. The problem is I know the importance of kids exercising their brain over the summer to prevent summer learning loss–I am a certified teacher, after all. The summer sun makes kids’ brains turn to mush and then they look at their teacher (or in our case, mom) with the deer in the headlights look when you ask them to write their name on their math paper. You know, because they forgot how to hold a pencil and all during their reign of chaos in the sprinkler.

That’s why this year, I’m doing something different to prevent summer learning loss. And, because a homeschool mom needs a break from teaching, I’m not even coming up with the assignments! I’m pretty sure it’s the greatest plan yet. I’m letting the smart people at Brain Chase take the lead while I sit back, sip on lemonade, and plan out next year’s homeschool curriculum. The sneaky part? He won’t even know he’s learning. Adventure! Global Treasure Hunt! Online Learning! Oh, and let’s not forget the chance to win a $10,000 scholarship! (I’m putting these boys to work early on earning their way to college. Ahem.)

Brain Chase--a summer learning adventure for kids to keep using their brains and avoid the summer learning slump

What is Brain Chase?

  • 5-week online summer learning challenge for 2nd through 8th graders
  • A massive global treasure hunt powered by reading, writing and math
  • A learning adventure to prevent summer brain drain
  • A motivational tool for getting kids to do online academic work during the summer
  • A personalized learning platform
  • A hunt for a golden mechanical treasure
  • A $10,000 scholarship and trophy

It sounds so exciting! (My hubby was watching over my shoulder when I watched the promo video and I think he may have had a vision of himself dressed as Indiana Jones claiming the prize. I hate to tell him we’d fit in more with the Goonies. Moving on.)

Brain Chase--a summer learning adventure for kids

Why use Brain Chase?

  • Startling research shows that kids lose more ground academically over the summer than one might expect.
  • A 2011 RAND study found that by the end of summer, students perform, on average, one to two months behind where they left off in the spring.
  • 94% of parents agree that Brain Chase helped their children stay sharp over the summer. (From a survey of families who participated in the 2014 challenge.)

Simply put, you want your kids to keep using their brains over the summer and start school with confidence that they haven’t regressed. I think we’d all agree about the importance of that, right?

How Brain Chase Works

At 9 a.m. ET on Monday, June 22, 2015, Brain Chase: The Sunstone of Cortés begins. Adventurers log in to watch the first animated webisode and meet Mae Merriweather, the star of the show. Then they dive into their first week of learning challenges. A proprietary (patent pending) learning management system – the “Dashboard” – tracks each student’s progress as they journey through the 5-week challenge.

Each week the adventurers have four tasks: read for 15 minutes per day, write one journal entry, earn 10,000 points on Khan Academy, and do one bonus challenge. When they’re done, they unlock the next webisode, which contains hidden pictures, numbers, and riddles to help them guess the treasure’s location.

Mae Merriweather and her friends from the Grayson Academy of Antiquities are hot on the trail the mysterious Sunstone of Cortés. To find it, they travel to the Himalayas, dive off the coast of Greece, and solve riddles. But there is more to the quest — and treasure — than they realize.

The hunt for the Sunstone isn’t just fiction – there is a real golden Sunstone of Cortés and $10,000 buried somewhere on Earth. Every 24 hours, adventurers can log in to enter their guess of the treasure’s location. The first adventurer to guess the location within a two-mile radius travels with his/her family to the treasure site to claim the gold.

Brain Chase Summer Learning Adventure--a global treasure hunt for kids

The 2015 Brain Chase Challenge
The 2015 Brain Chase challenge is to find the Sunstone of Cortés, a mysterious calendar stolen from the Aztec empire by Hernan Cortés in the 1500s. Kids join Mae Merriweather, her brother Max, athletic Sean Drake, and former nemesis Savannah Bryce to find the fictional Sunstone of Cortés… and the real one!

Brain Chase Questions You Might Ask

What is the age range of Brain Chase?
It’s mainly geared toward early readers through 8th graders. The technical rules are age 6-16.

What platforms will kids be able to do their learning on? PC, mobile device?
This will work on the major PC browsers, as well as iPads. This summer it will not yet be available for mobile phones. But it’s hard to do much writing
and math on a mobile phone anyway!

How many participants joined in last year, and is there a cut-off for how many can sign up?
Basically, you want to know how many kids you’ll be competing against. Last summer Brain Chase had 500 participants. They have to limit enrollment due to order the hands-on materials in advance, and so they can’t exceed that number.

How does the reading work – is it online, and how is it tracked? Are the books classics?
Brain Chase uses a reading platform called myON, which has a library of more than 5,000 digital books. Kids can choose what they’d like to read, and myON can measure number of pages read, number of minutes of active reading, etc., to ensure students are completing their tasks.

What if the kids miss a day? Will there be an opportunity to get missing clues?
Students can complete the challenges at any time. If they miss a day, it’s not a problem. They can catch up at the end of the week, or even the following week. The only rule is that they can’t jump forward to a new week before that week begins.

Will the kids be interacting with other kids online?
No! Out of safety for students, they cannot interact with other students directly online through the platform. But they do have an active Facebook page that became a fun destination last summer for families to interact with others and discuss each week’s clues. Here’s a sneak peek at the Brain Chase Adventure Dashboard to see how it works.

Can parents help the kids with the clues?
Obviously, you’re going to make your kids do the reading, math, and writing challenges for themselves. (If you have a young participant it is perfectly acceptable to help them type their online journal entries.) However, BrainChase is so engaging that the whole family will want to work together to figure out the clues and find the hidden treasure–and that’s ok!

Do we get anything special?
Yes! Brain Chase will send your child adventure items to help decode the clues. The 2015 adventure items are pictured below.

Brain Chase Adventure items for the 2015 Brain Chase Summer Learning Challenge

Sign up for Brain Chase

So, how much is it to participate in Brain Chase? $199 ($100 per additional child), but Brain Chase is offering my readers 15% off their total purchase. Use Code: BROWNHOUSE15

With the 15% off code, the prices are:

  • $169 for one child
  • $254 for two children
  • $339 for three children

Basically, the price of a week of summer camp, give or take.

I’m so excited that our oldest son will be participating in Brain Chase this year that I want to bring one of you along with us! Enter the giveaway below to win a FREE signup with Brain Chase (Um, hello. That’s quite a prize!)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosure: I was compensated for my time in posting this and received a free sign-up to Brain Chase. I only participate in sponsored posts that will be of interest to my readers and are things I would use myself.

Leo’s Pad Preschool Learning App

The draw of the iPad is intense with our three year old. He’s often found climbing on things to find it and has figured out the password to unlock the home screen to let himself play his favorite preschool learning apps. Honestly, I don’t blame him–I love fun technology, too. Usually, when Asher plays the iPad, he will open an app, play for a few minutes, and move on to another app. Lately, I’ve noticed him choosing a particular app and staying within the app for a longer period of time.

Review Leo's Pad Preschool App by Kidaptive

Disclosure: I was provided this product for free for the purpose of this review. I was compensated for my time. All opinions are honest, and I was not required to post a positive review.

The app my three year old son has been drawn to is Leo’s Pad, an adaptive-learning series for preschoolers by Kidaptive. Designed by Stanford researchers and world-class animators, Leo’s Pad Enrichment Program is a stunningly beautiful app jam packed with learning.

Leo's Pad preschool app

What I like about Leo’s Pad Preschool Learning App

  • Amazing graphics–This is the most beautiful app I’ve ever seen. The graphics are seamless, not choppy or awkward when they move. The graphics are very detailed, much more like a painting than minimalist clipart graphics used in some apps. Here is a screenshot of one of the beautiful ocean scenes:
    Leo's Pad preschool app screenshot
  • Encourages social skills–There are times when kids are encouraged to share with one of the characters and do nice things for the characters. For example, one time the activity was to paint on an easel and give the paintbrush to one of the characters when my son was finished.
  • Multiple levels–There are six chapters that unlock when the early learners have mastered a level. While parents can unlock a level, the app wants them to play a number of times to keep them from breezing through the games and to master the learning. Big thumbs up!
    Leo's Pad preschool app by Kidaptive
  • Creative Skill Learning and Reinforcement–The activities are creative and woven in the storyline of the “app-isodes”.  There are auditory reinforcements that go along with the visual learning. For example, when a color is chosen on the paint easel, the child hears the color name.art on Leo's Pad preschool app by Kidaptive
  • Photo avatars for the non-readers–This was a huge positive for me. Since each child is working on their own level of learning, each child has a user profile. I liked the option of adding a picture for my three year old to help him independently find his profile. Don’t worry, if you’d rather not load a picture into the app, there are several cartoon character profile pictures available instead.
  • STEM focused–There are lots of higher-order thinking skills woven throughout the activities and I noticed a large portion of the activities were designed to cover STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math). I love STEM activities for my boys–science experiments and engineering get my boys excited!

What my kids think about Leo’s Pad

They love it! To them, it’s an interesting and fun game. As a mom and a master’s level teacher, I know it is teaching them and doing so much more than just entertaining them for a while. While never pleasant, kids fighting over who gets to play first is a sign of a great app. Although Leo’s Pad is targeted for preschool, my second grader enjoyed playing, too.

My Only Hangup

If you’ve been a reader here for a while, you’ll know that I’m a frugal girl. I believe homeschooling can be done well without spending a lot of money, especially in the early years, and can be done with common household items. Normally, we stick to FREE apps or go without. On the rare occasion that I pay for an app, it is less than five dollars. At a price of $24.99, Leo’s Pad does not currently fall within my app price range. However, you get what you pay for, and with Leo’s Pad, you know you’re making an investment in your child’s learning, not just entertaining them.

Leo’s Pad has a trial available for the first chapter. I encourage you to download it and see this app for yourself. Your kids will love it and you might just think it’s worth the investment. Download your FREE TRIAL of Leo’s Pad Enrichment Program. While you’re downloading, be sure to download Kidaptive’s FREE companion parenting app, Learning Mosaic.

Coupon Code for Leo’s Pad

If you like Leo’s Pad and want to purchase it, get 20% off with code IHOMESCHOOL if app is purchased via https://shop.kidaptive.com/. This code will not work via iTunes. Coupon valid until May 31, 2015.

Connect with Leo’s Pad

Find them on Facebook (3 pages to choose from)–Kidaptive, Leo’s Pad, and Learner Mosaic
Find them on Twitter @Kidaptive or @LeosPadApp

Delight-directed Homeschoool Learning in December With CurrClick

December is a hard month for homeschooling in our house. The days leading up to Christmas seem so busy to me and all I really want is to just slow down, bake cookies, and stare at the twinkle lights on my Christmas tree. Not to mention, we’re all starting to feel a little homeschool burnout by now. That’s why I have started Delight-directed Homeschool Learning in December–to get us through the slump, take a curriculum “break” without really taking a break, and add a little fun to our days. Oh, we’re still doing the basics like math, writing, and reading, but we’re taking a break from the more intense unit studies for a little while to catch our breath and enjoy the holiday season.

One easy way I incorporate delight-directed learning for multiple kids is by turning to CurrClick.com. CurrClick has thousands of resources with the click of a button. You can purchase their products for relatively cheap, and most importantly, you can download and print them instantly. CurrClick makes delight-directed learning a cinch.


Delight-directed Homeschool Learning in December

To start with, I sat down and searched the CurrClick website for things I thought the kids would enjoy. With thousands of resources, it can get a little overwhelming to scroll through lapbooks and unit studies with kids looking over my shoulder. Keeping the kids’ interests in mind, I searched for things that would still meet some of the current learning needs for each child. Then, I let the kids pick what they would like to do out of those things. So, in a way, I guided their choices a little. I’m sneaky like that.

So what did my kids pick?

Jonah (7 yrs old) picked the Winter Brick Activities and More (he’s a a bit Lego obsessed)
Winter Brick Activities and More Lily (5 yrs old) picked the Frozen Lapbook , Frozen Copywork, and the Frozen Activity Book (she’s a bit Frozen obsessed)

Frozen Lapbook

Frozen Copywork

frozen activity book

The most important thing? It worked! The kids are enjoying themselves, I get a break from the teacher intensive curriculum, and we can still enjoy all of our favorite holiday traditions during the month of December.

12 Days Of Christmas Homeschool Freebies and Resources

12 Days of Christmas Homeschool Freebies & Resources from CurrClick.com

Here’s little more incentive to help you get to know CurrClick.com! Along with some of my blogging friends, I am partnering with CurrClick to offer the 12 Days of Christmas Homeschool Freebies and Resources.

From December 12 – December 14, 2014 you can download a Holiday Music Unit Study for FREE with code CC12days12.

Plus, we’re hosting a giveaway! Enter below to win one of 12 $20 gift cards to CurrClick!

CurrClick Giveaway


CurrClick end of the year sale

Nature Walk Bag

One component of our homeschooling is nature walks. We get outside, enjoy fresh air, and learn about the world around us. We often have several things we need to carry with us for our nature walk time. Instead of packing and unpacking a bag every week, I set up a Nature Walk Bag with some of our important items we need most often. This simple act of organizing our nature walk materials has saved my sanity! We have everything read to grab and go.

Nature Walk Bag for little scientists on the go

*Affiliate Links are included in this post.

What’s in our Nature Walk Bag?

Science Journal–we use this to write or draw things we saw on our nature walks. It may be making a list of the bugs we saw, sketching an interesting flower, or doing a bark rubbing, but we always try to journal about our time outside. The kids also record our science experiments in this journal. For example, the picture below shows the journal page from my Second Grader after Testing for Air Science Experiment.

science journal

Writing Utensils–I put a few pencils and colored pencils in a small pencil bag. I chose colored pencils so I wouldn’t have to worry about melting crayons if I left it in the van.

Binoculars–Part of the reason we have binoculars is because my oldest thinks he needs them for an exploring adventure, but we normally use the binoculars to look at birds or animals from a distance…of course, that depends on how quiet the kids can be before scaring them off.

Bug Catching Kit–My boys love bugs. It is easier to observe insects when you can catch them and get a closer look. We always release them into the wild so they can go about their business…unless the three year old stomps on them.

Magnifying Glasses–Once again, the boys turn into little explorers when they can “play the part” with a special tool. We use these to look at bugs, tree bark, flower parts, and the veins of a leaf.

magnifying glass

Kid Friendly Field Guide–By having a field guide in our bag, we can look up birds, plants, and more. Learning how to use a reference text like this to find information is a skill everyone should have.

We use and love the Fun With Nature Take-Along Guide. It is a compilation of 7 books: Caterpillars, Bugs and Butterflies; Frogs, Toads and Turtles; Snakes, Salamanders and Lizards; Rabbits, Squirrels and Chipmunks; Tracks, Scats and Signs; and Trees, Leaves and Bark.

We also use More Fun With Nature Take Along Guide. It is a compilation of five other Take-Along Guides. It includes: Berries, Nuts and Seeds; Birds, Nests and Eggs; Rocks, Fossils and Arrowheads; Seashells, Crabs and Sea Stars; and Wildflowers, Blooms and Blossoms.

Note: Depending on what we are studying, I choose one of these books. I don’t want to be carrying a heavy bag for long! And let’s face it…mommas end up carrying these sort of things most of the time.

Nature I-Spy Cards–I printed the Nature I-spy Cards from Nature Study Printables for Toddlers and Preschoolers written by friend Maureen over at Spell Outloud. I placed them on rings so they wouldn’t get lost. Little Brother likes these the most.

nature walk

 Need more Nature Study ideas?


Creative Nature Walks has over 100 nature walk ideas that are easy to do! If I didn’t have this ebook and so many of Cindy’s wise words, I would seriously wander around with the kids looking at the same things every week. Cindy has some fantastic ideas packed in this resource. If you are new to nature walks or just need a fresh idea, this is for you. Cindy is my go-to person for Nature Study. She has a ton of nature study resources available!

Follow Sara @ Happy Brown House’s board Easy Science Activities on Pinterest.

Viking Ship Craft for Kids

While learning about Vikings during our Viking Unit Study, the kids wanted to make a Viking ship. Using some common household materials and some recycled materials, we came up with a Viking Ship Craft that has been played with over and over and extended their learning through small world play. I often find the kids, mainly Jonah, pretending Lego men are Erik the Red on a voyage or Leif Erickson on his way to North America.

Viking Ship Craft for Kids: how to make a Viking Boat using recycled household items.

To make the base of our viking ship, we recycled an orange juice carton. Using a box cutter, I cut the orange juice carton in half.

Make a viking boat out of a recycled orange juice carton

Using brown paint, the kids painted the orange juice carton half.

Make a viking boat from a recycled orange juice carton

While the paint was drying, Jonah was in charge of measuring lines with a ruler on a piece of cardstock and coloring the red stripes on the viking boat sail. (See how I snuck that math measurement skill in there?) When he was finished, I cut the paper in half and trimmed the sail to 7 inches tall and 5 1/2 inches wide. Using hot glue along the top and bottom edges, I reinforced the viking sail with barbeque skewers.

Making a red striped viking boat sail for a viking boat craft for kids.

Once the edges were reinforced, I used my scissors to poke a hole through the top and bottom in the center of the sail. I used a skinny, but sturdy cardboard tube that was recycled from a package of glow sticks. It was the perfect size for the mast.

Making a viking boat for kids with recycled materials

Using the skinny cardboard tube, I threaded the tube through both holes in the paper sail. Then, I hot glued the mast in the center of the boat.

viking ship craft for kids mast assembly

To make the oars, I used a single hole punch to punch three holes in each side of the boat.

How to make a viking ship for kids

Next, we threaded three barbeque skewers into the holes and used some brown craft foam hot glued to each end to form the paddle on the oar.

how to make a viking boat craft for kids

The craft foam was wrapped around both sides of the skewer and hot glued together.

viking ship craft for kids

To make the dragon head on the front of the viking boat, I folded a piece of brown craft foam in half and roughly cut a dragon profile. Using hot glue, I attached the dragon head to the front of the boat. The picture below shows the dragon head unfolded.

how to make a viking boat for kids

And that’s it! A Viking Ship Craft for Kids to pretend and engage in small world play.

Viking Ship Craft for Kids

Viking Ship Craft for Kids

Other Viking Activities for Kids

Enjoy a Viking Lunch during your Viking Unit Study and snuggle up with some Viking Books!

Read This Make That (Viking Snack Edition)

*Affiliate links are present

 Voyage with the Vikings (Imagination Station Series)Voyage with the Vikings (Imagination Station Series)

vikingViking (DK Eyewitness Books)

Leif the LuckLeif the Lucky

Are you following me on Pinterest? I like pretty things and fun kids activities.

Visit Sara @ Happy Brown House’s profile on Pinterest.

Simple Science Experiment for Kids: Testing for Air

We love simple science experiments at our house! The kids love getting to study science concepts through hands-on activities best and are always excited when we have a fun science activity to try. We have been studying air in our science time and took a few minutes to talk about how air is always around us, but we can’t always see it.

Simple Science Experiment for Kids: Testing for Air with only 3 household materials and less than five minutes

Testing for Air

Since air is invisible, it can be a tricky science topic for kids. You can feel air around you when it is windy and you can see leaves move, but you still can’t see air by itself. In order to help the kids “see air” and realize that air is everywhere we did a quick science activity to test for air. Testing for air is a really simple science experiment for kids. With just a few household items, you could set up this experiment in less than five minutes.

You will need:

  • Bowl with water
  • empty drink can or an empty, clear plastic bottle


Simple Science Experiment for Kids: Testing for Air. You only need 3 simple household materials  and five minutes.

Push the can or bottle into a bowl of water so it begins to fill up. Watch what happens to the water.

Simple Science Experiment for Kids: Testing for Air with 3 household materials and less than five minutes

You will see bubbles as the water pushes out air from inside the bottle. Most things that look empty are really full of air. So easy and your kids will be amazed!Simple Science Experiment for Kids: Testing for Air with 3 household materials and  less than five minutes

Our Testing for Air Video

I took a video of us performing the simple science experiment for the first time. You’ll notice that I didn’t give them the answer, but gave them thinking time and rephrased my question to help them. I want my kids to learn how to think and work it out. I knew they could get to the answer since we’ve been talking about the science concepts, but you’ll notice that they were talking so fast that other science terms came out. My point? Give the kids plenty of time to think and form their answer before you swoop in and tell them.

Want more air experiments for kids? Check out Science with Air!

Looking for more simple science experiments? Here are a few of our popular science posts:

Simple Science: Observing Worms
Simple Science: How to Make a Volcano
Simple Science: How to Make a Sundial

Follow Sara @ Happy Brown House’s board Easy Science Activities on Pinterest.