How to Teach Kids To Tie Shoes

This post was first published Aug 2013. Updated 2018.

how to teach a child to tie their shoes

How To Teach A Child To Tie Their Shoes

Teaching a child to tie their 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).

Shoe Tying Tricks

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 kids to tie 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 Learning To Tie Shoes for 10-15 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 learning to tie shoes 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.

how to teach kids to tie shoes


how to tie shoes


6. Get the Right Laces

Use flat, long laces to teach kids to tie 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 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.

how to teach kids to tie shoes


how to teach a child to tie shoes


More Resources To Teach Kids To Tie Their Shoes:

Magical Molly Shoe-tying video resource for parents

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.


You May Also Be Interested In:

Goal Setting For Kids (free printable)

Moving To A Big Kid Bed




  1. THANK you for the easy shoe tying video link! My 7 year old son is left-handed (the only one in the family) and has vision issues (the strings tend to blur together). We’ve been trying for 3 years to accomplish this milestone task. I played the video and immediately knew it would much a huge difference. On the 5th try, he was able to tie his shoe. That is a HUGE milestone that we are celebrating!

  2. My daughter had a really hard time learning to tie her shoes. What finally worked for us was to teach her one step at a time…we’d have her do the first part of tying her shoes (before the loops/bow part) every time we’d tie her shoes & then we’d do the rest. Once she got that down, we added the next part & finished for her, etc.

  3. Great article! But there is a good alternative how to easily teach kids. This is Shoosey! Very interesting device that every child will fall in love into. It will be very easy and funny for your kid to tie any shoes! My kids adore Shoosey

  4. Yes, shoe tying is a very complex skill and requires not only fine motor but visual perceptual motor and cognitive sequencing skills. As a Occupational Therapist I often set this as an objective for the child since it has so many underlying components. If your child doesn’t acquire it immediately break it down, provide visuals, verbal cues and rhymes. Once your child gets the basics down, work on speed and strength. I always play a game where we race with our eyes open and then when we get really good we practice tying with our eyes closed. Most of all, be patient.
    OTR/L Pgh. Pa.

  5. I teach elem school as a sub and everywhere I go, shoe laces are untied. They are a hygienic hazard. Imagine those laces being dragged around the ground and dirty bathroom floors.
    I don’t tie them often anymore, and become frustrated by 8 y.o. 3rd graders who haven’t been taught. It needs to be added to the curriculum. Pull them out of class for 20 minutes a day for practice, until they can…

  6. my 21 month old zippered her zipper and every sense then too. we did start tiring rightnafter that. at 2.5 she had first part. just over 3 now and does whole tie. when she wants too or i have time to wait for her. she ties the ties on my shorts at the waist. so yah your kid can do things young but not if you think they are unable so you wait. scissors yes at 2 yrs old. they will be cutting really good by 2.5 but only if you try

  7. These are really great tips – thanks! I am in this stage and it is really hard! My son gets stressed tying his laces so I usually give in if he wants his velcro shoes instead.

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