At Arithmetic Village, we are firm believers of concept first. But how do you “get” the concept? Everyone is different, that’s why I think it is important to introduce multiplication in a multiple of ways BEFORE starting the journey of memorisation. See the beauty first!
First, use manipulatives. Show what 2×5 looks like! Give them equations to show with jewels or rocks or shells or coins. I have also used chalk circles and stuffed animals. Make it fun!
Find multiplication in nature! Clovers, flowers, leaves, etc. Find some equations on a nature walk.
Then skip count or use a number line. See what 2×5 looks like on a number nine. (You can do this anywhere, on a piece of paper, a chalk line or on the beach if you have one near.)
Compare it to other number lines, like the ten’s times tables.
Make some jewelry. That’s right! Why not? This teacher has a great lesson right here…http://www.dixonsdarlingdynamos.com/2014/05/multiplying-mahem.html
Color a pattern on a 100’s chart. Compare the patterns to other multiplication families. (It is good if you use thin paper that is a bit more transparent, so the patterns of 2/4/6/8 are more evident.) This visual will come in handy when learning about factors.
After exploring multiplication in all of these forms, then the concept is cellular. Then children have a deeper understanding of the concept, then and only then, should you engage with simple, rote activities songs and tricks for faster recall.