How to Teach My Child to Tie Their Shoes?

by SusanM

Easy tips on how to teach your child to tie their shoes

As adults we find it easy to tie our shoes. We've been doing it for so long it's become automatic. You probably don't even remember learning how to tie your shoes. I don't. Because we find it easy it can make it hard to understand why kids find it tricky. But there are a lot of fiddly little steps to tying a shoe that ARE hard. At least they're hard when you are learning how to do them for the first time.

This means to teach your child how to tie their shoes you need to step away from your adult world where tying shoes is easy. You need to think of all the new things your child needs to learn to tie their shoes. So I'll break down the task of tying a shoe into the essential parts that your child has to learn.

Getting Ready for Shoe Tying?

Lacing toys can be helpful to get your child ready to tie their shoes. This is because playing with lacing games and toys helps your child develop their finger and hand coordination. Without good finger and hand coordination your child will find it hard to tie their shoes. 

Lacing toys also get your child using laces without having to worry about making loops or other hard tasks of tying shoes. This is a fun and easy way to introduce your child to using shoelaces. 

Amazon also has lots of lacing toys that are fun to play with. To make sure your child is interested in playing with these pick some about topics your child loves. You can find lacing toys in lots of themes like animals, dress ups, cars and dinosaurs. They are all good for teaching your child how to tie their shoes. 

If your child is finding lacing cards too hard try some big lacing beads first. These don't need as much coordination as lacing cards. This means they are a good place to start. Once your child can thread beads onto laces easily then it's time to move to harder lacing cards.

Step 1: Getting the Laces Ready

It might seem funny to have this as Step 1. But it can be tricky to untangle laces so they're ready to tie. if your child doesn't know how to separate laces they won't be able to tie their shoe.

So the first step is to show your child how the laces need to be apart - with one lace on each side of their shoe. They also need to understand that the left lace needs to be on the left side of their shoe and so on. Organizing the laces in this way before your child starts to tie their shoes makes things easier. They can see each lace better. They don't have to worry about the laces tangling right at the beginning. These things make it easier.

I also should mention at this step how it's important to remember to teach your child two things. How to tie their shoes. But they also need to know how to untie their shoes too. This seems logical but it can often be forgotten because all the attention is on learning how to tie them.

Step 2: The Crossover

This next step is one that seems very easy. But many children find this tricky. When you think about it crossing the laces over and pulling on them to tighten is hard. This step needs good finger coordination which young children are still learning. It needs precision not to tangle the laces or pull them too tight. Your child needs to remember the pattern of how the laces cross over. If not they will end up with their laces crossed in the wrong way. So there are lots of things to learn in this first step. 

Your child might need some time to learn and practice this step before they move onto the next one. They might need 30 minutes, a few days or a few weeks. It depends on many things like how old your child is. Or what their finger coordination is like. But no matter how long it's best to have this stage learnt well before you move onto the next one or things can get tricky. 

Step 3: Looping the Laces

This next step is the hardest. (It's why Step 2 needs to be learnt well - so they can give all their attention to this step).

Making shoelace loops needs lots of finger and hand coordination. Your child needs good coordination to make the first loop. They need even better coordination to make the second loop. This is because when learning your child can use two hands to make the first loop. But they can only use one hand to make the second one. This is because one  hand needs to hold the other loop in place while the second one is being made.

When children are learning this stage it's best to have them make the first loop in their "non-dominant" hand (e.g. if they are right handed make it in their left hand). This is because their coordination in their non-dominant hand won't be as good. Using two hands will make it easier while they learn. They can then make the second and harder loop in their dominant hand with it's better coordination. Once they get the hang of doing this they can then learn to make each loop with one hand in the same way adults do up their laces. But it might take a while to reach this stage. 

Tying these loops together is hard in two ways. They need to make the same pattern they made in step 2 (another reason why that step is important). But they need to hold onto the loops so they don't slip out of their hands at the same time. This might seem easy but it's hard for a child. To help them make sure you show them the steps very slowly (the slower and more precise you can show your child the easier they will find it). It might take a lot of practice before your child can do this complicated step easily but practice helps. 

Step 4: The Final Step

This is the final step. Pulling the shoelace loops together.

This can be hard because it's tricky to pull them so the knot isn't too loose or too tight. This takes practice.

Your child will need to get the feel for how much they need to pull. Your child will probably make the knot too tight at first. But this should improve as they get more use to tying their shoes. 

Toys to Help Kids Tie their Shoe

Children learn through playing. So letting your child play with toys that help them learn to tie their shoes can be helpful. They can also be lots of fun. Children usually enjoy learning tasks like how to tie their shoes, as long as they don't get too frustrated. Having a few toys to help can help make it more playful. It helps them get lots of practice without making it feel like hard work. It also helps stop them from becoming frustrated. (But if your child is getting frustrated because they're finding it really hard you also need to stop and check which step your child is having problems with. Go back and work on that step again. If you need to try and break down that step into even smaller parts than I have shown here. Breaking a hard skill into smaller tasks is usually helpful when learning something.) 

Amazon has a wide range of toys to help your child tie their shoes. Different toys will be better for your child depending on their age and interests. 

Updated: 09/04/2012, SusanM
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SusanM on 06/21/2012

Thanks Katie. Gosh no that's not safe. Tying shoes is such a complex skill for kids to learn. I thought it was important to get an article out on it.

katiem2 on 06/21/2012

This is wonderful info on teaching kids how to tie their own shoes. I had such a hard time with my first daughter, she's now older and still walks around with her shoes untied, not safe.

SusanM on 06/10/2012

I'm glad it was helpful. Thanks :)

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