One thing all kids must learn to do on their own is tie their own shoe laces. As parents, I’m sure you all have your own way to teach your kids, many basing your method off how you once learned, but I wanted to share some more methods here. I was driven to find new methods, because I spend a lot of time around some fabulous, little twin girls that are incredibly independent when it comes to everything but putting on their shoes. They want to wear their fashionable sandals that are hard for even me to put on, and their glittery gym shoes that have graduated from the velcro stage. They haven’t yet learned to tie their shoes, and it’s been a frustrating experience for all of us who try to teach them. During my research, I actually found some great methods – some practical measures that make it downright easier, and some that make it fun for the kiddos to learn!

A few things to remember before deciding to teach this skill are:

  • Make sure they are READY to learn to tie their shoes! It will be an unpleasant and unsuccessful experience if you try to teach them before they are ready. Make it sound like a fun thing to do on their own, as they are becoming such a big boy or girl!
  • It is easier to teach children this skill when they know the difference between left and right. If they don’t know “left” and “right”, try putting a sticker on the laces or on their hands with two different colors or animals or something they know and can easily tell the difference between the two.
  • Most kids have the necessary dexterity to be able to learn this skill from ages 4-6. Some girls are ready to learn before boys, so be patient if he or she just isn’t yet ready.
  • Choose one main method – one song, one poem, or whatever method you have – and teach it consistently. Make sure anyone else that will be helping teach this skill knows and practices the same method so your little one doesn’t get confused and discouraged.
  • If your child has developed a dominant hand, you have to keep that in mind. If you and your child are dominant with your right hand, make sure you teach and practice with him side by side so he can follow your movements exactly. If you are teaching a left, sit across from him so he can mimic your movements.
  • Give a lot of praise when they learn to do this task independently. In all their milestones, tying shoes may not seem so important, but if they get praise when learning to be independent, they will want to continue learning things on their own which is a great skill and habit to acquire as a child!

Practical Methods to Ease the Transition:

  • Make sure all laces on beginner shoes are easy to grip – thick, soft, and wide laces are ideal. If the shoes came with thin, more slick laces, you can easily replace the laces on the shoe to help your little one grasp and maneuvar the lace.
  • Practice with your child on a shoe on a table or on his/her lap. It is more difficult and frustrating to practice tying laces while your kid is wearing the shoe they are working on.
  • Use a felt tip marker to pinpoint the places on the laces where the two ends should be gripped together to make the loops. This will help with placement.
  • Tie a knot at the end of each shoelace to stop the ends from being accidentally pulled through the knots or out of the eyelets.
  • Purchase shoes laces that are split in half by color. The contrasting color within the one lace will help your child differentiate between which lace goes under the bridge, through the loop, or whatever other trick you have!

Fun Songs or Poems to Help Teach the Skill:

Bunny Ears

  1. Tell the child that he needs to make his shoe laces into “bunny ears.”
  2. First, he needs to secure a knot for the bunny’s head.
  3. Take the laces and cross them over to make an “X”. Then, pull one ear through the bottom of the “X” and pull tight.
  4. Say, “Now we need to give bunny some ears.” Loop the laces into “bunny ears”.
  5. Tell the child that now we need to “make the bunny ears tight so they don’t fall off”.
  6. Then make another “X” using the “bunny ears”, slide one “ear” under the “X” and pull tightly.

The Squirrel and the Tree

  1. Tell the child to create “tree roots” by making a starter knot.
  2. Make a tree with a long thin loop, holding the loop in the child’s right hand.
  3. With his left hand, take hold of the lace and tell him that a squirrel runs around the tree and jumps into the hole under the tree and comes out the other side (he’ll need to switch hands at this point which can be difficult for some kids).
  4. (Many parents prefer this trick because it teaches the kid to tie shoes with the single loop method.)

Loop It, Swoop It, Pull

  1. Teach your child to tie his shoes using the standard tying method, but as you go through the motions say, “loop it, swoop it, pull.”
  2. Do this over and over while repeating the same three, simple instructions until your child is able to tie his shoes on his own.
  3. Encourage him to say “loop it, swoop it, pull” each time he attempts tying his shoes until it becomes second nature.

Remember, no way is better than the other. You may have to experiment with a few ways to see which one works best for you and your child. However, once you find a good one, stick with it and be patient! If you show frustration, they will get discouraged and give up and want you to keep doing it for them…which is way more frustrating to me than taking the time to teach them!

Feel free to add to this discussion board and share some of your own successful methods!