Books & DVD's

Penpals At Home From Cambridge University Press : Review

Now that Lewis is in year one at school he has started to get homework, focusing on maths, spellings and reading. One thing I have noticed with his spellings is that his handwriting is somewhat appalling and frequently very illegible. Handwriting is a very important skill, it is important that with parent/teacher support a child learns to write from a young age as I feel this will drastically improve a child’s confidence and education in a class room.

I was recently contacted by Cambridge University Press and they have just published two great new books aimed at children aged 3-5years helping with children’s first and vital steps in handwriting.

PenpalsEach of the books feature different areas of writing skills, Getting Ready For Writing focuses on holding a pen and pen control whilst Forming Letters focuses on writing skill whilst writing letters. The pages also feature write on/wipe off pages, perfect for use with dry wipe pens so that the books can be used time and time again. Also the books are interactive with the use of the free Penpals at Home app for Android and Apple gadgets.

The app is so simple to use, upon launch you will be greeted by the screen below which is basically a camera, hold your phone above a phone prompt inside the book you are working on and the app will do the rest.

Penpals 1Getting Ready For Handwriting

As these books are aimed at children aged 3-5 years I let Leah get to grips with this book, although she isn’t quite 3 years old yet I believed this book would be a great start Leah on her journey as Lewis’s skills in writing are now too advanced for this book. This book primary focuses on hand control to follow simple patterns, such as;

  • Dots
  • Lines
  • Curves
  • Circles
  • Squares
  • Bows/Figure of 8’s
  • Swirls
  • Triangles

The app also gives good prompts to children on what to do, encouraging them to follow simple instructions. Also the app features really catchy themes & sounds, ranging from garden scenes to sealife, fireworks and windmills. I think this would be perfect for holding the attention of a child aged between 3-5.

Leah really did give this book a good shot and over the coming year I firmly believe she will grasp this book well.

Penpals 2Forming Letters

This book was definitely for Lewis to work on as it requires more concentration and also a knowledge of letters, phonics and sounds.

Both the app and the book feature 4 characters which focus on all 26 letters from the alphabet;

  • Long Ladder – j, y, u, t, l & i
  • One Armed Robot – r, n, b, m, h, p & k
  • Curly Caterpillar – c, a, d, o, s, g, q, e & f
  • ZigZag Monster – z, v, w & x

Each page features plenty of space for your child to learn to write each individual letter either with help or free-writing by writing on the lines or in certain prompted gaps.

Penpals 3At the end of this book there are 6 extra pages, 2 pages focusing on letter partners which I believe are taught alongside the alphabet. Another 2 pages are the lower-case alphabet, copying the letters, writing the letters again on the caterpillar and then writing name practise. The last two pages are the same as the lower-case alphabet pages but focusing on capital letters.

Penpals 4All in all these books are absolutely perfect for any young child learning pen control and then with progression to learning to write. My only quibble is the lack of a dry-wipe pen with the set.

The books are both available from Amazon; Getting Ready For Handwriting and Forming Letters both priced at £4.99 each.


**This is not a sponsored post, I was provided with both the books from the Penpals at Home range to test and review. All words and opinions are my own.


Feel free to head over to The Sensory Seeker Blog to find out more ways of encouraging writing skills in children.


  1. Chris Daniel

    25th April 2016 at 4:22 pm

    We’ve just bought these… How did you download the app? I can’t find it in the App Store…

    1. Rebecca Bodkin

      25th April 2016 at 6:02 pm

      You will find links to the app in my review

  2. Pinkoddy

    19th October 2014 at 9:58 pm

    I think that they were really good, especially when considering what they will be tested on for their SATs next year – and handwriting is going to be part of the marks.

  3. Writing skills development for Children | The Sensory Seeker

    19th October 2014 at 9:44 pm

    […] For another review of the PenPals at Home from Cambridge University Press then visit ClearlyBex […]

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