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Tying Shoelaces

It was one of those eventful moments of parenthood, a milestone in your child's life and one that you were an integral part in helping them to achieve - the tying of shoelaces.  

We were outside, she ran in to get her "tie shoes" as we called them. She brought them back out and was determined to get them tied. I did not interrupt, just observed. I loved watching her concentrate. After about 15 minutes, she looked up at me and asked for some assistance. I smile and was ready to be "Wonder Woman" and save the day.

I bent down and started to show her the first step- cross the laces to make an "x." We practiced this step until she was a master. "This was going to be a piece of cake," I thought. Then, I went to show her the second step. This is when reality hit. She leaned over trying to see my hand movement, she could not get a clear picture. We tried from different angles.

Finally, I looked at her and said, "You know, I have taught children many different skills over the years, but I have not had to teach anyone to tie their shoes. I am going to have to think about this and we'll try again tomorrow." Thankfully, she is a very flexible child. She nodded and went on to catch a few fireflies before we had to go inside.

I racked my brain, thinking of a better way to teach her to tie her shoes. I decided to "google" it. Gratefully, I found a tip that helped us get over our obstacle. On eHow, there was an article outlining the steps in how to teach a child to tie their shoes. It was the same old routine, however, the bottom of the article contained the most valuable piece of information --- use a jump rope so they can see a larger view of what is happening.

I found our jump rope and practiced a couple of times that night. The next morning, I informed my Sunshine that I thought I had found the solution. Sunshine sat down on the floor and we placed the middle of the jump rope under her legs (right above her knee area). I was sitting right behind her so I could reach over and demonstrate the steps one at at time. I crossed the rope, she practiced a few times until she mastered. I tucked the rope under. She tucked the rope under until the skill was mastered. I made the loop-she made the loop. We swooped and pulled under and tightened. We stopped at each step and practiced until we mastered  the steps before going on to the next. The entire "lesson" took about 20-30 minutes. I quietly tiptoed away as she twisted and looped for the next 30 minutes. She was actually independently tying. Now, I said, let's try it with your tie shoes. She transferred the knowledge seamlessly. By the end of the afternoon, she was tying as quickly and skillfully as a child who had been tying for a year! Thank goodness for Google!


  1. :)

    Let me just say, [grin] with the understanding that we both know I am a very capable and loving parent! ;) - that my son -not two or five- doesn't tie his shoes.
    First of all - he never has tie shoes. So the "real life situation" never really comes into play. We usually pick out elastic strap or velcro ones. (Not to avoid ties, you understand. 'Just happens that way.)

    Truly - it's one of those things I've worried about a bit, as we have a neighbor that I'm pretty sure if she knew of this dreadful lack would report me as a horrid parent. So I just often pray she doesn't find out!

    And now we come to the good part - I shall ask my son when he gets home from playing with his Daddy if he's interested. And we'll use a jumprope.
    Great idea.

    And now - let me say (to remind myself) that this is where Unschooling comes in - if he learns to tie today, or next week, or next year - or before he is twenty and has to stop a stranger on the street and ask them to tie his shoe - it will only be important that I didn't shame us both until he learned it. Right??

  2. That is the best way I have ever seen to teach a child to tie shoes! I love it! You have the best ideas!

  3. I totally agree! It is not shameful to wait until your child is ready. In fact, my son, who is a year older than my daughter, is not as interested in this skill as my daughters (both are younger). He showed interest in the jump rope and was actually good at it and practiced tying dad's boots, but that as far as his interest went. I figure when he wants a pair of shoes that tie, he will tie. I think my girls were so interested because they seem to have a "thing" for shoes -- I have no idea where that came from :)

  4. I have a seven year old who still can't do it very well. She will occassionally do it, but most of the time, she can't get her fingers to do it. She can tie bigger strings, such as your example with the jump rope. I'm just not that worried about it.

    She usually wears shoes with straps or slip ons, so she hasn't really needed to learn it. I am going to follow your blog. I hope you'll do the same.

  5. You come up with the most amazing ideas! I would never have thought of this.

    I wanted to stop in and say thank-you for your kind words and to tell you that I have given you a blog award!


  6. This is brilliant! Thanks!

  7. This really is brillant. I have a cousin whose twins are struggling with this.

    Stopping from Mom Loop!

  8. Love it! I enjoy your insight and dedication to Montessori!

  9. So brilliant! Thanks for sharing. Now following your blog.