Teaching a child to tie his/her shoes has got to be one of the most frustrating tasks for a parent of preschool or school-aged children (or maybe it is just me). I think I would much rather potty train a toddler than attempt to teach a five-year old how to tie his shoes.
Okay, perhaps that’s a little bit of a stretch…but it is tough work.
Although this task is very important if your child attends school outside of the home, it is also very important for their self-help/adaptive development. We could just buy them Velcro shoes for the rest of their life (and believe me, I’ve considered it), but at some point your child will need to know how to tie a simple bow knot.
I’ve been working with Big Brother for a couple weeks now (here and there). Although he hasn’t mastered the skill quite yet, he has made a lot of progress! I am far from an expert (I have yet to successfully teach a child quite yet), but thought I would share a few tricks we’ve learned along the way (and also some helpful suggestions from my wonderful readers).
1. Start ‘em young. No, no, no…I don’t mean to break out the shoelaces with your 2-year old and begin practicing. Shoe-tying requires precise fine motor control, which is difficult for many young children. When your child is a toddler, begin working on activities that require your child to use the small muscles in his/her hands. As she progresses through her development, continue presenting challenging fine motor tasks. When the time comes that your child needs to learn to tie her shoes, she’ll have lots of opportunities to develop those small hand muscles! Looking for more fine motor activities, check out our Fine Motor Pinterest board.
2. Be patient. Teaching a child to tie his/her shoes is tough. They probably won’t “get it” the first, second, or even twentieth time that you show them. Hang in there…your child won’t be graduating high school still wearing Velcro shoes. It will happen at some point.
3. Give lots of praise. Celebrate the small steps. Once your child can complete the first step (crossing and pulling the shoelaces), praise him/her for their hard work. Turn on some fun music and make shoe-tying practice a fun and enjoyable time!
4. Work on shoe-tying for 15-20 minutes at a time. I made the mistake of working with Big Brother for an hour one day. I gave lots of praise and he made a lot of progress, but he was done with shoe-tying by the end. Splitting it up into smaller increments makes it much less frustrating for your child (and you).
5. Start big. Several people on my Facebook page shared that they first taught their child how to tie a bow using a jump rope underneath both of their legs. Once they mastered the skill on a larger scale, they then let him/her try it using shoelaces.
6. Get the right laces. Use flat, long laces to teach your child to tie his/her shoes. The rounded laces are sometimes too difficult for little fingers to manipulate.
7. Don’t lace the top holes on your shoe. I’ve found that most shoelaces are just a tiny bit shorter than what is easiest for kids to learn to tie. Remedy this problem by lacing only to the second holes from the top of the shoe. This will give just a little bit of extra length for your child to work with.
8. Mark and make a knot in the laces. I learned this from the Magical Molly video (although we simplified and adapted it quite a bit), I just marked the laces with a Sharpie where the first loop will be made and then then made a knot where he will pull it through the hole.
Magical Molly Shoe-Tying Video for Kids (I didn’t actually show this to Big Brother since he already had the first step down and I didn’t want to confuse him, but it is a good resource).
Easy Shoe Tying Video (this looks GREAT and super easy for little kids but we had already started working on tying shoes using the loop and swoop method, so I didn’t try this with Big Brother as not to confuse him).
Melissa & Doug Wood Lacing Sneaker: We don’t personally have this, but many people have suggested it to introduce a child to the concept of lacing and tying shoes. It is basically just a tool to practice without having to put a shoes on your child’s feet.