Timing is everything with childhood learning, and it's best to teach kids how to tie their shoelaces once they have the fine motor skills and an interest in taking on the tying task. Healthychildren.org, the website for the American Academy of Pediatrics, notes that children between the ages of 4 and 5 have mastered the hand and finger skills to learn to tie laces. It's helpful to select one tying technique and reinforce it with frequent practice, but if your child is just not getting it after frequent and prolonged practice, there are several techniques you can try.
Kids learn in different ways, and books offer an easy way to introduce tying methods to children who prefer to see something demonstrated first and then try to replicate the process from pictures. Interactive picture books with laces attached to the pages allow kids to learn and practice their tying skills by using step-by-step images to demonstrate the overlap of laces and how to tie the bow to keep the shoe tight on the foot.
Educational lacing toys include wooden shoes, fabric books, doll and puppet shoes and pillows with laces. Toys typically incorporate two laces in contrasting colors on each side of the shoe to make the looping and tying process easier to see. Toys with laces give kids a chance to tie and untie and thread laces through wooden, metal or fabric grommets similar to the holes in shoes. Exploring how things work helps children understand the basic lacing concept, and these toys allow others to demonstrate to kids how laces work together to make a bow as you sit side by side.
An easy way for kids to remember the shoe-tying technique is to use your child's own shoes with flat laces for the demonstrations. Give your child a shoe and use the other for the lesson. Matching shoes have the same thickness and tie length, and the grommet spacing matches your example and your child's practice shoe. After a few teaching sessions using this technique, don't be discouraged if your child wants to remove his shoe to take a closer look before tying the laces. It's normal to assess a problem before attempting a task. Kids sometimes prefer to hold the shoe to tie the laces and then slip the shoe back on. This is a typical intermediate step that your child may need before learning to bend over to tie the lace.
Some adults have yet to master tying shoes upside down and in reverse, and nearly all children have the same trouble. Showing your child how to tie your own shoe gives a different view compared with what your child sees glancing down at his shoes. An easy way to resolve this problem is to grab your child in a bear hug from behind and then demonstrate the lace-tying process from the same vantage point as your child sees when looking down. This technique keeps the lace-over-lace directions focused from the wearer's point of view and illustrates the correct place for the lace ends when the process is complete.
- healthychildren.org: Developmental Milestones: 4 to 5 Year Olds
- Alberta Health Services: Helping Hands -- Shoe Tying
- University of Pittsburgh Office of Child Development: Developmental Milestones: 3-5 Years
- Scholastic Teachers: Tying Shoes
- WGBY: Crafts for Kids -- DIY Shoe-Tying Board
- Michaels: Tie Your Shoes Learning Lacing Canvas Board
- Scholastic Teachers: One, Two, Tie Your Shoes
- Jupiterimages/Creatas/Getty Images