43 answers

Shoe Tying

Help! My daughter just turned six, and still cannot tie her shoes. I need creative suggestions because my approach is just not working. She gets easily frustrated and either I end up tying them or she puts on her slip ons. First grade is just around the corner, and I would like to have her master this skill before she gets there.


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I teach 2nd grade and I always get a few kids who cannot tie their shoes. The best thing I have ever found to help them is an older student. Find a neighbor kid who is really nice and patient or a cousin and ask them to help them tie their shoes. Really it works everytime. 10 years are really good at this.

When I was eight I could not learn to tie my shoes. My dad repeatedly showed me how to tie my shoes. But both of my dad and mom are left handed. I am right handed. Then my mom and dad asked my mom's mom to come and visit us, to teach me to tie my shoes. My grandma was right handed. I am so happy that she flew by airplane to where we lived to teach me to tie my shoes! Have you ever thought of this before? I hope that you find the help that you need, and that maybe my true story is helpful to you.

Mrs. T. L.

Try starting with the tie on a bathrobe. It's the same movement with out the fine motor requirement.

More Answers

Is there an older child who can assist with this skill? Sometimes it is more fun and less stressful when another child is helping, even a teenager or a babysitter or something. We live in Hawaii, and I don't think ANY Hawaiian kids know how to tie their shoes, because we always wear rubber slippers!! With all of the alternatives to laces, I don't think it is uncommon for kids to acquire this skill later in life than we did.

Buy a doll for shoe tying!!! It was my only hope and in 4 days my 6 year old daughter was an expert. Just buy the doll show her a few times what to do and let her have at it!!!

I'm pretty sure its a 7-year-old average on that, but just make it fun, not a stressful thing. I would make a chart and give her a sticker on it every time she makes a good effort with a good attitude.

I love Caty S's idea with the marker. That's great to know when I cross that shoe-tying stage. I don't have any tips, but your question reminded me of a blog I read that was giving away a shoe-tying "training board" type thing. Here's the blog: http://www.5minutesformom.com/3141/laces/. I also found these that seem like they would help a child's small hands be able to hold on better: http://www.tiebuddies.com/ Good luck!

Gosh, I barely thought about shoe tying, with all the velcro & elastic closures out there! Your daughter may just not have the dexterity yet. I recall having a very hard time with it myself and I know I was well into 1st grade before I could do it by myself (and I recall feeling bad about it and a bit panicky, so do be compassionate with her please).

Everyone's different -- my daughter wore mostly velcro sneakers & sandals, or had her laces tied for her until into 1st or maybe 2nd grade. I couldn't really figure out how to TEACH her what to do, so I just kept asking her to watch me closely while I tied her shoes, or I'd set the loop up and have her push the end through (and it wasn't even every day). After a bit of fumbling she got it and she's fine now. I marvelled at how easy it was for her, but one thing I know I did differently from my folks -- I didn't pressure her and I didn't allow anyone else to say one word to her about it either. I am not saying I think you are pressuring your daughter, please don't think I am!

I'm a big advocate for allowing kids to do things when they are ready. Maybe some dexterity developing toys -- does your daughter like to string beads? I know it's past time for shape sorters, but how was she with those? how about puzzles? Things like that will tell you how she is with hand-eye coordination and dexterity. If she's not there yet, she'll have a hard time tying her shoes. But once she gets it, just think how wonderful she'll feel.

If she's not ready by 1st grade, my suggestion is shrug it off, send her to school in velcro sneakers or tie them (slowly & with big movements that she can follow -- and double knot them so they won't come undone).

All the best,
(who at this very moment is wearing velcro closing Tevas)

Hi C.,

I know it can be frustrating when we think our kids should have gotten something by the age they are at but, sometimes it just doesn't work out that way. Hang in there! My suggestion is to try working with her on other shoes than her own. Such as yours - or maybe a dolly. Yours or a larger shoe will have larger shoe laces and all that extra length can help her get the idea of pulling through. Have you tried the bunny ears or the traditional one loop, wrap-around and pull through?? Being consistent is important, but I have noticed a lot of kids do better with the bunny ears (probably because of the bunny reference). Once she can do it on the larger laces, she will feel more confident to do her own, & it will be less stressful/frustrating as well. Good luck & God Bless!

All the others have great suggestions. Some children do not have the fine motor skills mastered as early as some others. My son did not learn to tie his shoes until almost high school. He still has fine motor issues today and never mastered handwriting but prints miserably. Thank heavens for computers and word processors. He can type very quickly, but write or tie shoes? He prefers slipons to this day, but will tie athelic shoes once and then uses them as slipons. If your daughter shows other signs of fine motor skills problems such as using each hand to write with, poor grasping ability, unable to throw a ball accurately, etc, then have the school test her. My son had three years of occupational therapy that really helped. Also, if your daughter has trouble with buttons, zippers, hair and tooth brush control that is another sign. Just thought I'd put in my two cents with a child that had multiple issues with fine motor skills as one of them.

Hi C.!
I just found this cute animated video showing how to tie a shoe at:

Hope that helps!
R. E (the one with 7 kids)

I am a kindergarten teacher...shoe tying is a very hard skill for many children to master and many first graders still have trouble. A great visual (which works for the "bunny ear" or "loop and around" method) is to take a white shoelace and color (with a sharpie marker) half of the lace another color. Then lace up the shoe and at the top you will have the two ends (one white and one the other color). Then proceed with teaching the bunny ear or loop method. Children seem to pick up on it because they can see the colors crossing each other.

Let me know how it goes!

I learned from a shoe that was made out of cardboard with shoe laces attached to it.....Some kids cannot do the common way of tying their shoes....Then I would teach the way of making bunny ears first...then complete the tying of the lace....This way is a lot more fun....She can always learn another way when she is a little older...

I am not sure how to help you, I just wanted to let you know that you are not alone!! I was so sure that I had the only second grader in the world that could not tie her shoes. It seems that some of the other kids helped her better then I did, beczuse by the time second grad was over she was a PRO!! So be patient and teach her when she is in the mood and let it go if she gets mad, she will learn better at calmer times. Good luck

When I was eight I could not learn to tie my shoes. My dad repeatedly showed me how to tie my shoes. But both of my dad and mom are left handed. I am right handed. Then my mom and dad asked my mom's mom to come and visit us, to teach me to tie my shoes. My grandma was right handed. I am so happy that she flew by airplane to where we lived to teach me to tie my shoes! Have you ever thought of this before? I hope that you find the help that you need, and that maybe my true story is helpful to you.

Mrs. T. L.

I agree with Sue on buying Red Lace, Yellow Lace, I have seen many kids learn off that book. It's at Amazon.com for less than $10.

My middle son had problems tying bows. Have her practice on a doll or a bow around a toy. Tie a regular overhand knot. Then make a loop with both of the lengths and tie an overhand knot with the loops. Then you have to turn them slightly to make it lie properly, but it works. No more putting around and pulling through that is confusing. Start with a larger ribbon or large heavy rope for practice.
Hope this helps.

My youngest had trouble with this...and he wanted velcro tennis shoes. My solution was to take away any pair of shoe that didn't have laces until he could tie them easily by himself and keep them tied properly (for a period of time...I think we said a month). As soon as he showed mastery, he got his velcro tennis shoe.

It's hard to convince kids to learn to tie their shoes in this era of "leave your shoes untied, it looks cool!"

The easiest way I know to teach is to make two "bunny ears" then cross them and pull one through. "Two bunnies were playing went around each other then down the hole." It's differrent than the way I learned, but easier for the kids to remember. I taught a little girl I babysat when I was in high school and she still remembers the bunnies and she's now 15.

Make this apart of her homework. Everyday before homework starts she has to tie the shoe 6 times, I'm saying 6 because she is 6. You might have her start at 10 times, but if they are not perfect that's ok, you are working on the problems she is having. Don't put the shoe on, just hold one shoe on your lap and then have her hold one on her lap you tie at the same time one step at a time. Make sure the lacies are plenty long it's easier with long lacies.
If you get flustered still, ask your son to try and teach her. Sometimes kids relate better to other kids, I'm sure tieing a shoe will be no big deal to him. Then when they get good have a race. But as far as learning make her continue to tie. My son learned this way and was great at it. But because he didn't have to tie anyone's shoes he has forgotten, and we have to start over in second grade. Good luck! practice makes perfect. J.

Get a black shoe lace and a white shoe lace and cut them in half. Tie one of the back laces and one of the white laces together and then lace up each of the shoes with the black/white laces. This will give your daughter a better visual of the bunny ears, crossing over and pulling through manuevers.

Another suggestion would be to do what they call a "back-chain," which is basically having your daughter learn the very last step (pulling the lace tight to create the bow) first and gradually work backwards from there. My son's OT recently taught me this one to use on my son who has difficulty with his fine motor skills. Since he just turned 5, I haven't really worked with him on this yet but plan on doing so over the summer.

Good luck.


I'd say buy her slip-ons and velcro.

My son was a "late tie-er" like your daughter, and I just left him alone about it. That was ten years ago. He is in high school now -- a great kid -- the MVP of his lacrosse team, a talented musician and an A student. Not tying his own shoes until he was seven did not do him any permanent damage.

So she is late tying her shoes. Unless you think that it is a symptom of a bigger problem, I say don't sweat it.

Your daughter sounds like my son. He just turned 10 and just learned this past year. Don't panic if she doesn't. Kids learn on their own pace and other kids won't know how either.

This site helped us: http://kidsfashion.about.com/od/doityourselfstyles/tp/kid...

the two that worked for us were the "bunny ears" suggestion, and getting the 2-different-color laces (do he didn't get them confused).

Good luck.

Aloha C.,
Why is it so important that she know how to tie her shoes now? We forget that the learning process is longer for some people for some things. I think you need to lower your expectations and then you will be pleasantly surprised and happy when she is able to do it. Until then she is just your little baby so enjoy those unable moments before she outdoes you!
God bless you and the family.

I teach 2nd grade and I always get a few kids who cannot tie their shoes. The best thing I have ever found to help them is an older student. Find a neighbor kid who is really nice and patient or a cousin and ask them to help them tie their shoes. Really it works everytime. 10 years are really good at this.

Hi C.

When my children were younger they had the same problem. They would always try too hard to do it the first time when I showed them and they would get frustrated too. I got lucky with my last child and her older sister worked with her and she mastered the skill in one day. It was amazing. I have found that the older sibblings get the younger children to do things like that. It is an easier way of teaching them to love and respect each other too.

If the older sibblings don't want to help or the children don't get along Grandparents or Uncle & Aunts always come in handy.

Good luck and don't get frustrated.


posted in wrong place oops

Hi C.,

I smiled when I read your message...I too was six years old before I could figure out how to tie my shoes. Motor skills came more slowly to me than to my playmates. I was the last one to learn to ride a bike, tie my shoes, etc. Now I'm in an occupation that's all about motor skills (acupuncture). So not to worry, your daughter will learn what she needs to know eventually and will just get there at her own pace!
Best wishes,

Dear C.,

It will come - we all learn how to tie our shoes eventually . . . I am sorry for the frustration, though! How are you teaching her to tie them? Can she tie the first part where you just cross over the laces? I was first taught "bunny ears" - which is just like that first step, but with both the laces looped. I don't remember how long I used that before I learned to tie shoes the "regular" way - and bunny ears has come in handy over the years (a kindergarten teacher friend of mine taught me to do bunny ears, but to push the loop through twice before you tighten it - and your shoes WILL NOT COME untied! [until you want them untied - which they do effortlessly] I tie my work shoes this way EVERY night! I have work smocks that have ties at the waist, I tie them this way and then NEVER have to tie them again! [even through the wash]) . . . Anyway . . .

Good luck!

try teaching it to her backwards ( do the first steps and let her finish, moving backward until she gets it) and be very encouraging! I took a behavior class that taught learning things from end to begining was easier b/c you learn a new step and already know where to go from there!

Hi C.!

I'm sure the other moms out there will have some good suggestions for you. I know there are a few children's books that help the kids practice and tell them how to do it. I came up with quite a few when I searched Amazon. I did want to reassure you, though, as to when she needs to learn. I absolutely agree with you that she should learn as soon as she can. However, as a first grade teacher for many years I can tell you that I had several kids who did not know how to tie their shoes and some go into second grade not knowing how. So you can relax the pressure on yourself if you think everyone else is going to know how to tie their shoes. It's a skill that takes some kids a long time to learn! Good luck!

My Daughter is 8 and would prefer not to have to tie her shoes if she can get out of it! LOL! She too got very frustrated and down on herself when she couldn’t get it right therefore we resorted to slip-ons....but her teacher came up with a wonderful teaching tool! We got a LARGE piece of poster board (large enough for her to sit on) drew a large shoe shape right in the middle of it, punched the appropriate amount of lace holes and got some fun ribbon from the fabric store (what ever she likes!). My daughter sat on that big shoe for hours and practiced,(toe pointing down straddling the shoe)she even practiced while she watched TV or sat outside at a BBQ. She would get so excited when she made a nice tight bow! We still have the thing in fact ....she said she was going to give it to her little 1/2 sister, when she got big enough to tie her shoes. Hope I helped! :0)


Try starting with the tie on a bathrobe. It's the same movement with out the fine motor requirement.

I have a boy who's turning six in a month and he can't tie his shoes either. It is a developmental milestone, so I know he'll reach it eventually. I'm not worrying about it because he's reading, writing beautifully and subtracting double digits (just out of kindergarten). Just like nobody goes to college in diapers, I've never heard of a college student who couldn't tie their shoes either. Be patient, it will happen. :)

Don't push, some of the frustration she is experiencing may come from the sense she gets from you that she is behind in this skill and there is some deadline to learn it by. Just practice, practice, keep it low-pressure. She'll get there. I didn't learn til 3rd grade (what's that, 8, 9?) and my best friend was always tying them for me on the playground. Finally I just figured it out. Fine motor skills development- happens at different rates for everyone, maybe she's just not ready yet.

Target has a shoe lace-up board. It is fun and we kept it to have around for when little ones visit. It's about $20. Look in the wooden Puzzle section. The board has 4 different pairs of shoes on them. Easy to take in the car.

Do not buy slip-ons.... Show her that she is a big girl. Soon, she will be tying your sneakers!


Mom of four here, by the way. This is a complicated skill to learn! Do not think she is way behind every other kid her age. She isn't, not at all. Most kids learn between 6 and 8 years of age. She probably just isn't ready for it yet. And it is not a big deal at all. There are plenty of velcro-close shoes for kids her age, as well as slip-ons, especially for little girls. Buy her those. Don't make her feel as if it is a skill she should have by now. Minimize the issue. Don't push her on this or she will just become more frustrated and develop a mental block towards it. She will have it down pat by the third grade. You said you would like her to have that skill before her first grade year starts. Why? Each child is an individual, and they develop and learn at their own pace.

My daughter had trouble with the bunny ears method, so we tried making one loop and circling around instead. We made her try at least once a day. No pressure, just wanted to see effort. She eventually got it. There are lots of kids in 1st grade that don't tie their shoe laces. They get sneaky and have their friends do it instead. :)

Does she have any friends who can teach her? I actually learned from my neighbor when I was 4 or 5 years old. It might work... just an idea.

I approached teaching my son to tie his shoes when he first turned 5 and he couldn't master it. I tried to teach him the two rabbit ears way at that time, and he just couldn't do it. So, then I showed him the rabbit going around the tree the next week, and he could do it that way. It takes time for kids to do this, my son just finished 1st grade and he's still slow at it. I have made it a point to purposely buy him tennis shoes that tie just so that he has to tie them. I have to plan extra time for him to tie his shoes, or I have him tie them in the car. There are so many slip on shoes these days that it's easy for kids to not learn this skill. But, it's a fine motor skill, and kids need to learn it. We as parents also have to learn to let them do it themselves, which can be difficult at times.

Cut the center out of an old tennis shoe ...(with just the
necessary parts you'll need)...Or if you can find an old doll shoe with laces...Then let her carry it around with her ie: in the car; at church...Maybe she'll think of it more as game as she attemps to lace it up.
You might even want to decorate it or put her name on it.
Good Luck

Granny Sandrea

As a child I learned how to do braiding on my mother's new mop.

One of the shoe stores (I think it's Stride Rite) has a book on how to tie your shoes called, "Red Lace, Yellow Lace." It worked with my son. A friend of mine sent it to me. It does the "bunny ears" method. Don't worry if your daughter doesn't get it right away. Some kids just aren't ready to tie their shoes at age 6. I started with the first part (before the loops), then progressed to making the loops, then we worked on tying the loops together. If you go slowly and let her master each step before moving on to the next one, she'll feel more confident.

Hi C.-

A friend of mine suggested to me, to help my son learn, is to put on your shoes or dad's shoes to practice and maste the skill first. This way your daughter has longer laces to practice with. She said her son mastered it really quickly this way.

Try using a pair of shoes that are on the table in front of you, rather than tying the ones on her feet. You can also use the process of end-chaining; where you do the first couple of steps, then have her do only the last step (the grand finale.) After she masters that, let her do the last two steps. etc. It worked well for my son!


My son wasn't getting it from me or his dad either no matter how many times we tried to teach him. You know who ended up teaching him to tie his shoes? My ex's next door neighbor! She taught him one time and from then on, he was tying his own shoes. So like a few others suggested, try having someone else teach her. It worked for us.

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