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How to Tie Shoes for Kids

Sheryl Cannes
Updated on: November 18, 2022

Tying shoes is a right of passage and a developmental milestone all children pass through. Children need to develop a certain dexterity level before they can manage to hold, loop, and pull shoelaces. Once they’re ready, it can build confidence and independence.

A 6-year-old is usually ready to tie their shoes, though some children may be ready earlier or later. Remember, as you’re entering this exciting phase, that it takes a heavy dose of patience on your part and determination on the child’s for true success.

The Set-Up and Tips

You want your kid to be successful. Success, in this case, requires a little preparation and creative thinking from the parent.

  • One method doesn’t work for all kids. Have more than one technique in mind. The method you learned as a child may be confusing and frustrating for your child. Keep an open mind, and check out a few different techniques before you begin.
  • Several days or even weeks before you attempt the first shoe tying, practice tying knots with your child shoe-free. Help them get a feel for the shoelace (or rope) while developing their finger muscles. A basic understanding of how to manipulate the laces can be valuable when it’s shoe time. You might also want to take this opportunity to learn a new knot together. Children benefit from seeing adults struggle to learn new things, too.
  • Check the laces on your child’s shoe. If it has stiff, round laces, switch them out for a flat soft pair because they’re easier to hold and manipulate.
  • Make sure you’re both well-rested, fed, and calm when you sit down for the first lesson. Try not to press yourself for time. Constantly telling a child to hurry is a surefire way to see them move at the speed of a snail, frustrating both of you.
  • Try using two-tone laces. It can be hard to track two shoelaces of the same color, and it’s easier for you to give directions if you can direct by color. Try a green and yellow lace or red and blue lace. The colors should be different enough that your child won’t have trouble understanding directions. For example, don’t use light blue and dark blue laces.
  • Use a marker to mark reference points on the shoelaces. For example, where the end of the bunny ears should be or where the shoelaces should cross when making a knot.

The Bunny-Ears Method

Many a parent learned to tie a shoe using the bunny-ears method. Here’s a refresher if you’re a little rusty.

1. Sit Down with the Shoe Pointing Away

Parents sometimes unsuccessfully show their kids how to tie a shoe because they do so with the shoe’s toe pointing toward the child. That’s how you tie someone else’s shoe, not your own. Place the shoe in front of your child with the toe pointing away from them. You want to make the experience as close to real-life as possible.

Sometimes kids need more resistance than a real shoe offers. Brainstorm a few creative ideas together. If you’re at grandma’s house, you could use the bottom of her table legs or the railing of a banister. It won’t slide around the way a shoe will.

2. Make Half a Knot

Have your child hold a shoelace in each hand, grabbing it about two or three inches above the shoe. Next, cross the laces one over the other to make an X. Take the shoelace that’s underneath and put the end of it through the bottom of the X, and gently pull.

If your child has trouble, let him or her see you do it first. Following movements of an adult can help your kid develop muscle memory.

3. Make Bunny Ears

It’s time for those classic bunny ears. In one hand, make a loop with the aglet or tail end (small plastic piece on the end of the shoelace), lying across the body of the shoe. Make a similar loop with the second shoelace in the other hand. This lace’s tail should lay across the shoe’s body in the opposite direction of the first, making an X with the tail end of the first lace.

4. Slide Up the Bunny Ears

Now, without pulling on them, gently grab the bunny ears next to where they cross (one in each hand). Slide the hands about halfway up the ears. The tail ends should still create an X on top of the shoe.

This method can be tough if your child struggles to hold one thing in one hand while doing something else with his other hand. If he gets stuck on this step, follow steps one and two, then try the alternative method mentioned below.

5. Through the Rabbit Hole

Cross the bunny ears near their top, creating a circle (rabbit hole) with the crossed ears at the top of the circle and the X at the bottom. Push the ear that’s on the bottom through the rabbit hole while hanging onto the other bunny ear. Once the ear is through the rabbit hole, pull the shoelaces tight.

Alternative Method

Bunny ears is one of the standard methods for teaching children how to tie their shoes, but it doesn’t work for everyone. If bunny ears confuse your child, we have an alternative method for your kid to try.

In place of step three, make a square knot by tying another half knot and pulling the laces. Stop pulling when there’s a small circle. You can call it a doughnut or Cheerio to make it easier for your child to understand.

Now, have your child take the end of one shoelace and put the aglet end of the shoelace through the hole, pulling it until there’s a loop or bunny ear, then stop. Have him do the same with the other lace, making sure to stop about halfway. There should be two loops with tails coming out the other side of the doughnut.

Now, grab both loops/bunny ears and pull. The circle tightens to create a knot, and you’re done.

FAQs

How long does it take to learn how to tie shoes?

There’s no set time limit for how long it should take a child to learn to tie their shoes. It will depend on their developmental level, their underlying skills, and the strength of their finger muscles. Using safety scissors is great preparation for tying shoes. It requires using small motor skills with visual perception. Some kids will learn quickly, and others may take a few weeks. Most children can tie their shoes by about second grade, but don’t be concerned if your child takes a little longer.

When should I teach my child to tie his shoe?

Children need a certain amount of hand-eye coordination. Most children can start around six years old, though some may not be ready until they are seven or eight. You’ll have better success and less frustration if you wait until they’re ready. Can your child manipulate scissors, buttons, and paper? If so, he probably has the dexterity to manipulate shoelaces.

How can I make learning easier?

Learning to tie shoes can be frustrating. There are a few ways you can ease your child’s way into this new step in independence.

First, practice every day. Your child doesn’t need to spend 30 minutes a day tying his shoes. However, a solid five to ten minutes for a few days could make him a pro faster than you know it.

Second, stop practicing when your child gets frustrated. Of course, there’s going to be some frustration when learning a new skill. But if your child is in tears, he may not be able to control his emotions or body well enough to make any improvement.

Third, find fun ways to practice. Sitting down with an old shoe isn’t exactly fun. You could make a shoelace board with several different kinds of laces, for example. Practice with dolls or on mom or dad’s shoes. Try to make it fun and light-hearted to help build your child’s confidence.

The Take-Away

Tying a shoe might seem simple to an adult, but it’s a challenge for children. The right circumstances, coupled with patience, can help your child build confidence and independence. Remember to be positive, and praise your child throughout the process.

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