As a parent, perhaps you’ve been there. You’re trying to figure out some app on your phone, or are fumbling through a website on your computer, and your 7-year-old takes over and saves the day in less time than it takes you to tie your shoes.
OK, perhaps an exaggeration (but surely not by the time they reach the ripe old age of 10), albeit not overly so. Yet, here’s the question: it took them less time to resolve the technology dilemma than it takes you to tie your shoes, but do they know how to tie their own?
Research in the past few years by our friends in the United Kingdom has suggested that many children learn to tie their shoes at a later age than did your generation. We can thank Velcro for that, perhaps, and the fact that kids really aren’t required – if that’s the right word – to tie their own shoes until they join a soccer or baseball league in which athletic shoes are shoelace-only.
At one time, being able to tie your shoes at the age of four, or by the time you started kindergarten, was considered the norm. Not that we’re obsessing about the ‘good old days’ (and, yes, we walked miles through knee-deep snow to get to school), but learning how to tie shoes was an important developmental step. No, it wasn’t always easy, but you got through it. And, as a result, you showed up for your first-ever day of school not only looking sharp while sporting a cool backpack or lunch box but also with a pair of neatly-tied shoes.
That someone took the time to teach you should not be overlooked. Fact is, teaching someone how to tie their own shoes is just as hard as learning how to tie them yourself. It ranks right up there with potty training in terms of parental frustration and requires patience and nerves of steel.
Compounding the issue is the reality that you haven’t thought about how you tie your own shoes in for, well, forever. You just do it. You can do it with your eyes closed. While you’re on the phone. While your mind wanders to a thousand different places.
So, before your own child is fixing your phone, computer, and managing the remote far more efficiently than you, focus their minds on a still very valuable skill – tying their shoes.
How to teach kids to tie shoes
First, there really isn’t any right way or wrong way to teach your child to tie their shoes. OK, so we’ll suggest a few do’s and don’ts, but actual methods vary and whatever works best for you and your child is the method you should stick with. Let’s start by laying a solid foundation:
We’ve already touched on the importance of teaching your child to tie their shoes at a young age. Not too young, mind you, like when they’re still a toddler, but when they’ve started to develop fine motor skills that are needed for shoelace-tying.
Above all, be patient. Your child won’t instantly tie a perfect knot when first shown how. It will likely take multiple attempts and multiple attempts after that. They will get the hang of it, however.
Teach in Short Intervals of Time
Teaching your kids how to tie their shoes shouldn’t be like a day on the assembly line. Show them how for 15 to 20 minutes then take a break. It will seem like more than enough time in their minds, and you’ll decrease the risk of them becoming burned out with the process.
Start With Big Things
Many who’ve had stress-free success with teaching their children extol the virtues of using larger objects, such as a jump rope, to teach them how to tie a bow. They’ll understand the concept more easily and can then transition to a smaller (shoelace) scale. Here’s another thing you can try: place the shoe on a table – without their foot in it, of course – and practice that way. It can be a lot easier for them than having to bend all the way over.
Use the Right Laces
Flat, long laces are often easier for teaching your child how to tie their shoes. Rounded laces can be harder for small hands to work with. Also, use laces that aren’t of the slippery, synthetic variety, but are of made of natural fibers such as cotton. They’ll be easier to grip.
Praise, Praise, Praise
Celebrate the small victories, such as when your child first crosses and pulls the laces. Turn on some fun music. Make them laugh. Give them a high-five. Teaching them how to tie their shoes needn’t be like hard labor in Siberia.
Choose Snug Shoes
By snug, we don’t mean shoes that are so tight that they restrict circulation. But snug enough so that your child doesn’t have to make the lace quite so tight.
Mark the Key Points
Highlight the points on the shoelace that should be gripped together when making a loop or loops. Using a felt-tip marker works just fine for this.
‘Training’ laces come in two colors and can make it easier for your child to follow your instructions (“Ok, now pull the yellow one over the green one”).
Don’t Go Easy On Them
No, we never, ever, want you to berate your child while they’re learning the fine art of shoe-tying, but there’s no harm in firmly guiding them along the noble path. For one, make sure they always untie their shoes when they come home. Having to tie them again will help them to sharpen their axe, so to speak. Shoe-tying opportunities should abound.
Teaching kids to tie their shoes – Two quick and simple methods
Now let’s take some time to discuss the actual mechanics of tying a shoe. It’s the heart of the matter, where the rubber meets the road and all of that stuff.
Here are two – perhaps simplest – methods how to teach kids to tie shoes:
1. The Ian Fieggen Method
Ian Fieggen, also known as Professor Shoelace, has made it his mission to help kids learn how to their own shoes at a proper age. He’s devoted a website to the subject, and here is one of his methods:
Step 1 – Tie a starting knot where the left lace goes over the right. The right lace is then held between the right thumb and forefinger, while the left is held around the left thumb and forefinger. Use the other fingers of the left hand to keep the lace tight.
Step 2 – Create two loops, one with the loose end behind, the other with the loose end in front. Push the loose end of the right lace behind with the middle finger while rotating the left hand forward to swing the loop to the right.
Step 3 – Cross the two loops over one another. First, use the left thumb to push its loose end over the right, while using the right middle finger to push its loose end between the left thumb and forefinger.
Step 4 – Use the two fingers of each hand inside its loop to grab the loose end of the loop. The left thumb and forefinger will grab the left loose end; the right thumb and middle figure will grab the loose left end.
Step 5 – Almost there. Each hand releases its own loop and then pulling the loose end of the opposite loop through its own.
Step 6 – Complete the knot by pulling the loops tight.
2. The Magic Fingers Method
This one is effective both in its simplicity and its result. Start by crossing the laces as you normally would. Put the thumb and first finger of your right hand in front of the lace, with fingers facing you. Place the thumb and first finger of your left hand behind the lace with your fingers facing away from you.
Next, pull your fingers forward until you feel some tension and give a little twist on the lace so that your fingers end up facing each other. Now, pinch the laces in between the opposite fingers. Finally, pull through. Finished!
There are many other methods that can be used to teach kids how to tie their shoes. Find the one which works best for you and your child and stick with it. Remember, you’re teaching them a valuable skill, just as you were taught the same skill many moons ago. Be patient and don’t over-burden them with the process. More importantly, make it fun and not a chore.
Ditch the Velcro, my friends. Your kids will thank you for it.