Help W/ Techniques on Teaching How to Tie Shoes!!

Updated on November 22, 2008
A.B. asks from Greensboro, NC
31 answers

Hi, I want to ask you wonderful women if I am jumping the gun or behind the pack on teaching my 4 yr. old son how to tie his shoes. He does go to daycare 3 days a week to get the socializing experience before kindergarten and his teacher once told him that he should know how to tie his shoes by now. Which I was shocked....should he know, am I not up to date on teaching him, or was she just frustrated that day? He will be 5 in February and I do work with him, but I lack any of those cute little stories to go with learning how to tie your shoes. I know there is something about bunny ears, but I'm clueless. If anyone could tell me what age they usually learn how to tie, any toys out there that could help, and any techniques that could help would be great!!!

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So What Happened?

I just want to thank you all for such wonderful responses & advice. I feel much better about the whole situation and am taking a laid back approach at practicing/teaching my son how to tie his shoe. Some days he is interested and some days he is not and that is just fine with me. He told me yesterday that they are practicing in his pre-k class, so that is also helpful. Also, thank you to those who sent me links & product suggestions, I'm even thinking of a "practice shoe" for an upcoming Christmas present to peek his interest a little more. Thank you all once again, the responses were very helpful and supportive!

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A.C.

answers from Wilmington on

Dear A.,
My oldest had very good manual dexterity, but still couldn't master tying her shoes until mid-kindergarten.
The day I was told that my son was "behind" because he couldn't tie his shoes in kindergarten, I went out and bought him velcro shoes. I had him and my youngest in velcro until the teachers stopped caring.

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C.A.

answers from Nashville on

Don't stress to much my son is in 1st grade and still doesn't tie his shoes. It is hard to get the small motor skills and getting the steps in the right order. Just practice a lot. Let him practice on his shoe when he isn't wearing it, so he doesn't have to lean over his leg to see his shoe.

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R.B.

answers from Raleigh on

I think as in most things that every child learns at his or her own pace. My daughter never showed an interest until the end of kindergarten. Then we found a poem online & she learned in a few days. She is now in second grade & she still has a few friends that are still learning. So my advice is unless it is a requirement at his pre-school, don't stress it & buy velcro shoes if his teacher is being a pain.

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C.D.

answers from Nashville on

The teacher told the four year old that he should know how to tie his shoes by now?! These little guys are so sensitive, and want so desperately to "get it right" with everything ... that seems to me like a very detrimental thing for the teacher to do. As you said, she may have been having a "bad day," but her careless and shaming comment to your little guy regarding how he's "not sufficiently capable" could have a lasting impact. If she's truly worried about his development in a certain area, she should have spoken to you, not him.
Have you addressed this comment with the teacher? I would. I would also make it clear that any future comments about his development should be addressed in a conversation with you, and not with the child. Period. You can be kind, but I would be very clear and very firm about this.
All that being said, four years old is what I would describe as "right at the beginning" of this particular kind of learning curve. Some children move quickly though it, others take a little longer. There's not right or wrong way to do it. It's a very personal thing, and no one graduates from high school unable to tie their shoes.
Here's a thought:
if shoe tying is so important for the teacher, then maybe she's the one who should buy the tying books and teach the rhymes to the children. Then it is turned into a positive 'for the children.'
If a nursery school teacher can't deal with tying shoes every day, then maybe she needs to rethink the career choice.

Best of luck to your little guy. He's doing great.

C. D

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H.A.

answers from Jacksonville on

I think your kid's teacher is silly. I didn't learn how to tie shoes until I was in the first grade. My daughter is not old enough to tie shoes yet, so I can't comment about today's day and age, so maybe ALL 4 year olds know how to tie shoes now, but personally I think your kid's teach is smoking crack.

That being said though, one good way to learn (might be easier for smaller fingers) is to cross the laces, then make two loops, one with each lace (bunny ears). Then you tie the bunny ears together. That was easier for me to learn than the way my parents initially tried to do it (make one loop, wrap the other lace around the loop, etc.)

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L.J.

answers from Memphis on

As a 1st grade teacher with students who cannot tie their shoes, I am very surprised that your son's teacher told you that!! It takes a LOT of fine motor skills and coordination to tie shoes!!

Thus said, my son was a little younger than yours when he mastered the art of how to tie his shoes - my husband and I are both left handed and he is NOT, so I was totally paranoid that I wouldn't be able to teach him how to tie... We got the cutest book (Learn to Tie Your Shoes by Joelle Murphy) that shows several different ways to lace and tie shoes - and gives step by step instructions. And it comes w/ a very helpful string that is red on one end and blue on the other. It helps make what they are trying to do more clear, b/c you can say, "Now take the RED string..." instead of "this one" and "that one".

Hope it helps!

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D.M.

answers from Charlotte on

if you want my advice..let your 4 yr old be a 4 yr old..maybe i have always done wrong in this case..cause i have 5 children and none of my kids could tie their shoes by 4 years old...that is something they start to learn when they are in kindergarten..and most kids these days are 6 or almost 6 years old when they start kindergarten even..they must want a child to grow up to fast or the teacher does not know much about how children learn ..something is just wrong with that picture...a prime example of how a child that age to tie shoes..try putting sandals on them over the summer and they r gonna forget to tie shoes..too young to know how to tie at age 4..thats how i see it..and again i have 5 children and none tied at 4

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P.M.

answers from Wilmington on

Having worked in a kindergarten classroom for more then ten years, I can tell you that many, many children come into kindergarten not knowing how to tie their shoes. It is a skill that we encourage the children to work on, so providing your child with shoes that tie are important. Also, the children that learn how to are children with the fine motor ability and the willingness to learn. They also need to practice, practice, practice; so a little maturity and concentration also help. Some children are self-motivated and very excited and proud when they are successful. You may introduce your child to the fine art of shoe tying; but do not be discourage if he does not have the interest or the ability just yet. Give him a few more months and maybe let him know that when he turns 5 in February together you will work on being a successful shoe tier.

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V.C.

answers from Wheeling on

Some kids prob'ly do tie their shoes at age 4, but it's certainly nothing to be embarrassed about if they don't! I remember tying my first shoe-bow when I was 5 or 6, and it was kinda 'loose and floppy'. (I'm 51, now! LOL)

I also agree that the teacher shouldn't be 'shaming' him for not being able to tie shoes.

You can make 2 loops (like the ones that exist AFTER tying a bow) and tie the 2 loops into a bow, but I seriously think this is more difficult -- especially for little fingers -- than the traditional way of making a loop with one hand, wrapping it with the string in the other hand and pulling it through as a second loop. Just keep at it as long as it's fun, and if it gets frustrating, get him elasticized shoes or velcro til he's ready!

Thought I'd add this cute story for a little levity of the situation!

Bad Day For The Teacher

The kindergarten teacher was helping one of her kindergarten students put his boots on? He asked for help and she could see why. With her pulling and him pushing, the boots still didn't want to go on. When the second boot was on, she had worked up a sweat.

She almost whimpered when the little boy said, "Teacher, they're on the wrong feet." She looked and sure enough,
they were.

It wasn't any easier pulling the boots off than it was putting them on.

She managed to keep her cool as together they worked to get the boots back on -- this time on the right feet.

He then announced, "Teacher, these aren't my boots." She bit her tongue rather than get right in his face and
scream, "Why didn't you say so?" like she wanted to.

So, once again she struggled to help him pull the ill-fitting boots off. He then said, "They're my brother's boots. My Mom made me wear them." She didn't know if she should laugh or cry.

She mustered up the grace to wrestle the boots on his feet again. She said, "Now, where are your mittens?

"He said, "I stuffed them in the toes of my boots..."

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T.H.

answers from Raleigh on

Check out http://www.fieggen.com/shoelace/lacingmethods.htm for tips on typing all kinds of laces. This link http://www.fieggen.com/shoelace/tying.htm is the basic knot that seems to be the easiest. You can find all kinds of children's books & poems that will make this process easier.

I just googled how to teach kids to tie shoelaces and came up with all sorts of links. Good luck!

Check out these links:
http://www.atozkidsstuff.com/shoes.html
http://www.looperslaces.com/
http://www.tiebuddies.com/?gclid=CKey1e-0_JYCFQVxFQodAT5pXw
http://kidsfashion.about.com/od/doityourselfstyles/tp/kid...
http://blog.silive.com/kidsinthecity/2007/08/tecahing_kid...
http://mommylife.net/archives/2008/09/teaching_kids_t_6.html

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L.J.

answers from Lexington on

My kids all learned around age 5, and my youngest was nearly 6 by the time he caught on. Maybe some kids do learn when they're 4 these days, but I always thought that age 5 was a good time to teach them. Just like any other skill, some kids do pick it up sooner than others.

I wouldn't worry or try to pressure your son.

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M.T.

answers from Raleigh on

I sent my daughter to preschool when she was 4 and their homework over Christmas break was to learn to tie their shoes. I had tried several times before to do it and then one day it just clicked and she has been doing it ever since. It is something they want them to know before they go to kindergarton so I was grateful the preschool kinda pushed me to do it.

As for stories...on Playhouse Disney there is a story they use when showing how to tie. I really dont know what it is but you may be able to go online and find it and download the video. It is very short like a min or 2. good luck

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K.R.

answers from Memphis on

I don't think it is too early or too late. Kids learn at their own pace when it comes to tying shoes. They have books that teach you how to tie shoes. I bought a book from the grocery store and it gave them step by step instructions along with a red and yellow shoe string to tell what goes where. Patience is the key, if your child is showing interest in tying shoes then jump right on it. Good Luck

PS. The book's title is Red Lace, Yellow Lace (Learn to tie your shoe!) by Mike Casey (a Barron's book) It's a hardback book and if your planning on having more kids it's a keepsake.

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C.W.

answers from Raleigh on

I would not be concerned that he is falling behind. My three girls all learned by the end of kindergarten. As a matter of fact, how to tie shoes was on their progress report. They didn't get an "S" for satisfactory unless they learned by the end of kindergarten. Don't stress it, you have enough stress right now! Best of luck!

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K.B.

answers from Raleigh on

Hi A.! Your question is a great one, I was a kindergarten teacher for 6 years and while it's not required for children to tie their shoes in kindergarten it is a big help! Just imagine stooping to tie 25 shoes countless times a day. Anyway, shoe tying is a difficult skill to master and we do teach it in kindergarten. If you would like to teach your son at home there are tons of different "cute" ways to approach it. My best suggestion is to google "shoe tying poems" this will give you lots of teacher/parent based websites. They have different poems and activites to try. My favorite technique is to lace a shoe with two different colored laces, this way it gives the child a visual clue as to which lace should be the loop and which should be tied around it. Also pick a cute poem or silly song. Hope this helps...good luck!!! And just remember, make shoe tying a fun game...not a boring chore :)

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W.M.

answers from Nashville on

Melissa and Doug have a wooden toy shoe that is big enough to put their feet in and they can practice that way. My son has this but honestly, he learned by practicing on his own shoes. That daycare teacher is wrong. My son is in Kindergarten and the teacher told us that we need to start working on it in kindergarten. He practiced on his own ALL the time and got it in about a week. I can't remember the rhymes but I am sure a teacher would know, or an older child. If you are confrontational you can tell his daycare teacher that you spoke to some other ppl and found out it is in kindergarten that they NEED to learn but that you will begin practicing with him as you have time. ugh

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M.M.

answers from Jacksonville on

Relax and buy velcro shoes. When he is a little older try again. I'm sure by the time he gets out of elementary school he'll figure it out. My 7 year old in 2nd grade can do it but they don't stay tied that long. So we still get his soccer shoes tied for him. He wears velcro most of the time.
THe teacher may have had 15 other pairs of shoes to tie that day and been frustrated, even so she should know that 4 year olds still have trouble.

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M.P.

answers from Memphis on

Hi A. I know it can get a little frustating to hear certain things from teachers when we aren't really ready to hear I sometime feel as u do when I get info. My 6yr didn't know either when he was 41/2 until I signed him up for summer camp and I ask his taecher to help him learn because what I was doing wasn't getting it. I also told him he would have less tv time, no field trips, & no swimming for about a month for him to learn from his friends & teacher at camp. I believe in taking away some of their favorite things to do will edge them on to get it done because I really dislike spoiled brats. Now A. in daycare they have so much to learn in a school environment it's impossible for the teachers & kids to help so don't worry your self as much right now unless he goes somewhere else suchas cousins,dad, or close friends around to help in him mastering that skill of tieing his shoes. I also have to agree w/some of the others but, mostly with Peg of her educational experience pratice,pratice,pratice they will learn on their on but just don't pamper them til they are teen & adults. I wouldn't be as strong of a person if my own mother didn't push me.

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K.J.

answers from Louisville on

I don't have any tips but my daughter is 5 and in Kindergarten so I am anxious to look at your responses since she doens't know how to tie her shoes either. I don't know any of the cute little stories either though.

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A.V.

answers from Knoxville on

Sounds like a frustrated day care worker! But I will say that my oldest learned on his own (from peers I guess) at his K4 class, when he was about 4 1/2 and then my second one learned before he was 5 too! I was floored - I never really tried to teach them that young, they just picked it up from other kids. They were also riding bikes w/o training wheels at age 4! My daughter took until she was about 6 or so with both those skills, and I have taught pre-school and Kindergarten before - there are HUGE differences in fine motor skills up until kids are about 8 years old. This is why some kids are better at handwriting/drawing than others in their class.

If you want to help him, which I wouldn't worry about - you can always buy velcro or stretchy pull-on sneakers - there IS a book that I forgot the name of at the moment about using that cute little bunny ears song. I think it comes with a shoe lace that is red on one side and yellow on the other, or that may be a whole different book. My kids are 12, 10 & 9 now, so it's been a while....
Do a search on barnesandnoble.com or a similar site, it should come up!

Best of luck to your baby with this skill! :)

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B.R.

answers from Raleigh on

I wouldn't stress about him not knowing how to tie at this age. We can do it without thinking, but when you think about, it is hard to see what is happening when you tie. I don't think the fine motor skills are really there yet. If you want to play around with it, let him try to tie a bathrobe belt. Everything is bigger and may be easier to handle. That will be our plan when we try. But for now, we are happy with Velcro.
HTH

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C.W.

answers from Nashville on

I think you should start teaching him. Both of my girls learned to tie their shoes at 4.

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C.R.

answers from Knoxville on

We had a Dapper Dan doll.I am not sure if they still make them. At the daycare I worked at I wanted all of my class to be able to work on it so I took empty boxes,cereal, graham cracker or other similar boxes. I cut the larger sides out then cut those in half. I put the pieces together and with a hole punched 3 holes. I then glued the cut pieces onto the other large piece. (I stapled them) Take a long length of yarn or an old shoe lace, if you have that, lace it through the holes like you would in a shoe.

The two methods that we used had stories to go with it. It seems that we borrowed the books from the library. One was a story about a bunny chasing another bunny around the tree and through the hole. The other method was to make bunny ears(two loops) cross them then one ear(loop)goes under the other. You have to remember to do the cross part before.

Good Luck

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C.C.

answers from Knoxville on

Buy him - or make him - a toy with laces to practice on. Until then, buy velcro!!! Most of all, don't stress over it. He will learn eventually, but right now it probably doesn't need to be that high on your list of priorities.

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D.B.

answers from Charlotte on

Good grief! Sorry A., I'm being all "Charlie Brown" with your child's teacher saying your 4 year old should be able to tie his shoes by now. If she had said that perhaps you'd like to work with him, it wouldn't have bothered me.

Lots of kids don't yet have the manual dexterity to tie shoes that young. Some kindergartners do, but a lot can't until 1st or 2nd grade. My own son was so impressed with a little girl he was sweet on in kindergarten, that he tried all summer to learn so that when first grade rolled around, he could impress her. Turned out he helped tie shoes for so many of his classmates in first grade. (His teacher was grateful.)

It has to do with his development - sometimes using tricks like calling the loops "bunny ears" can help kids be excited about it, but he has to be developmentally ready too.

EDITED TO ADD:
A., a couple of the posters mentioned evaluations done in kindergarten or progress reports regarding shoe tying. That is not in every school - probably only theirs. It was never in any of the schools my children attended. So please don't stress over that. As if we as moms don't have enough to worry about outside of shoes!

All my best,
D.

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J.S.

answers from Raleigh on

My daughter is six and still struggles. Her occupational therapist told her to cross the laces, put one through the other. That she gets fine. It's the bows that she gets messed up on.

So, for now, we're still using velcro shoes. I do let her use her tie shoes if she has about 30 minutes to spend on her shoes before school, or if she just wants to try with no pressure.

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E.A.

answers from Louisville on

Personally, I think your son is right on track at his age. Their little fingers might not be able to maneuver the laces. Our son is 6 and he JUST learned how to tie his shoes a couple months ago. We bought books, I avoided velcro shoes like the plague - he never had a pair and yet he showed no interest in learning how to tie the laces. It wasn't until he was getting ready to start 1st grade that I was getting desparate and pulled out the bribe - if you can learn, you can go pick out a new game for your DS. That was all it took. I think he already knew how but didn't want to admit it because he sat down right after I said that and tied them with minimal problems. So, in a nutshell .. :) .. I don't think you should worry about your son for a year or so. Work with him on it but don't force it. There are two techniques - rocket ship or bunny ears - so make sure you know which way they are showing him in pre-school. My son does the rocket ship method but my daughter learned the bunny ears method which I had never heard of before. Hope this helps!

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H.C.

answers from Hickory on

Hi, A.,

For a little perspective, I tried to teach my 3 kids to tie their shoes each at about 5 yrs old. Only my youngest, 10, is a "fluent" tie-er. My other two, 13 and 15 can get their shoes tied, but not very adeptly (yet they manage to play soccer on a team, wear tied shoes to school--usually permanently tied, and feel good about themselves.) I've long decided that kids do their thing (toilet train, read, tie shoes...) when they have the where-with-all (ability, time, incentive) and until then we as parents just provide encouragement, opportunity and notably NOT ridicule or impatience. Thank goodness for velcro shoes and slip-ons. Your kid will probably have his shoes tied when he gets his college diploma!

And the bunny ears? You cross and under to begin, then make two bunny ears and cross and under again...then pull. You could say the bunnies give a hug, somersalt and pull apart (I just made up the story, you can say whatever clicks for you...)

Have fun, this is one of the LITTLE hurdles of life,

H.

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K.A.

answers from Nashville on

Make a loop and tell them it is a bush. Then wrap the string around the loop and tell him that the string is a rabbit and it is running around the bush and them it goes into the hole. Sounds silly, but it works with them. Yes, I am old and I did teach my kids to tie there shoes this way. I think my daughter was three when she learned and I don't remember how old my son was. That teacher of your son's is silly, not him.

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M.S.

answers from Memphis on

Tying shoes is one of the skills he will be evalutated on in K. Many preschools ask for velcro shoes on kids as they are easier for the children and teachers, however, this is a detrimental to the children as they don't get regular practice tying shoes. You can google shoe tying rhymes and probably find multiple things, I have seen books with them too. Sorry, don't remember the names of any as my children are older now.

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M.Z.

answers from Charlotte on

My son is 5 and is still practicing. I keep finding knots everywhere! LOL I got him a M. and Doug shoe with laces-- it's wooden-- I would recommend it. We followed a song by Little Bill-- after the "x" it is something like "One little loop, what do you do? Wrap the lace around and pull it through. Now you've made a bow and you tied your shoe!" My son repeats this rhyme over and over all day-- so we stuck with it and he is learning. My son has some fine motor delays so it's harder for him, but he really keeps trying. I think you are right on target to start teaching him now-- he will get it.

Mel

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