Self Reliance: Teaching Children How to Tie Shoes


I can do it! How to teach children to tie their shoes

By Dr. Robyn J.A. Silverman

Happy March! Since the Powerful Word of the Month is Self Reliance, it’s a good time for parents and teachers to help children exercise a “can do attitude” and challenge themselves to do some age-appropriate activities by themselves.

While it’s often easier, quicker, and even more skillfully performed when we do things for our children, it’s not always best. After all, we’re not always around to be at our children’s service!

Teaching children how to tie their own shoes is one way to help young children learn self reliance. When they learn self reliance through shoe-tying, they may be apt to try other things on their own and develop into more independent, capable, and competent children, teens and adults.

Since the invention of Velcro, most children’s shoes feature these easy closures. Still, there are benefits of teaching children how to tie their own shoes. On the physical side, it helps children work on their fine motor skills, hand-eye coordination, and dexterity. On the social side, it helps children employ self reliance and can lead to increased confidence in one’s own abilities. Besides, it’s still an important childhood milestone!

Here’s a few tips to help children learn how to tie their shoes all by themselves:

(1) Different colored laces: It can be easier to explain shoe tying if laces are different colors. Instead of saying “the right one” or “the one in that hand” you can say, “put the red one over the blue one.” Different colored laces can make any shoe-tying technique easier.

(2) Bunny ears:

a. Tell your child, “let’s make some bunny ears with your laces!”

b. First, make a knot for the bunny’s head. Take one lace in each hand and make an X. Then pull one lace through the bottom of the X (like a train going through a tunnel) and pull tight.

c. Tell your child, “Now let’s give our bunny some ears.” Loop the laces to make 2 ears.

d. Tell you child, let’s make the ears nice and tight so they don’t fall off the bunny’s head!” Make an X using the 2 ears, slide one ear under the X (like a train going through a tunnel) and pull tight.

(3) Use a giant shoe cut-out: You can buy one or make one yourself. Cut out a big shoe-shape. Let your child color it or decorate it with markers and stickers. Then string an extra long lace through the shoe cut-out (a shore lace that’s 2 different colors on each side can be helpful here—sow a red and green lace together or dip each side of a white lace in dye for the same effect). Allow your child to work on the “giant’s shoe” using any teaching method you like.

(4) The Scaredy cat and the tree: This method uses a fun story to help children tie their shoes. It’s also referred to as the squirrel and the tree. Stories help children remember the steps. This method exercises a lot of dexterity since the children need to switch hands.

a. Tell the child, “make tree roots by making a knot.”

b. Then say, “make a long loop to make a very tall tree. Hold that loop in your right hand. (A sticker on your child’s right hand can help him remember right from left).

c. Tell you child, “with the left hand, hold onto the other lace. This is the scaredy cat! The cat runs around the tree and jumps into the hole under the tree and out the other side.

(5) Try some shoe-tying books or toys: There are wooden shoe-tying models and shoe-tying books that allow your children to practice! Books or games like “Tie Your Shoes Rocket Style” or “The Wooden Lacing Shoe (Melissa and Doug) are some good options.

PowerNote: If your child’s a lefty and you’re not, ask another lefty to help you teach your child how to tie his or her shoes. Or—mirror them! Sit across from your children and tie a shoe along with them. This way, your shoe tying will match what they’re doing.

Again, while Velcro and bungy cord laces are available, learning to tie ones own shoes helps with self reliance and development. Not to mention, your child will eventually grow to be an adult…and when is the last time you used Velcro to fasten your shoes? You might as well teach them now as they will need to learn the skill eventually!

Have a Powerful Month!





4 Responses

  1. […] need to engage in tasks on their own if they’re ever going to learn how to do them well. Laundry, shoe-tying, packing their own bags, making the bed, and are great places to start. Older children can handle […]

  2. […] of Dr. Robyn’s other articles that teach self reliance and responsibility feature (1) Learning how to my own tie shoes; (2) Learning how to do the laundry; and (3) learning how to pack my own […]

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