Monday, 16 May 2011

How (not) to teach your child to tie their shoelaces...

The time has come.

Whilst I know I can get away with velcro fastening shoes for another few seasons and another few shoes sizes, the time is drawing near when Olivia, and Charlie probably sooner, will need to turn their backs on velcro straps for 'real shoes' and 'real sneakers'.

A little like toilet training or the learning of how to tell the time, the very idea of teaching my children such a new and anti-intuitive skill is daunting. One to be delayed for as long as possible.

I cringe at the cutesy methods such as "Bunny Ears" (two loops first, then tie into a granny knot.)

I am not organised or crafty enough for different coloured lace ends to aid reminding. (Bi-coloured Laces are actually a good idea - apparently you take two laces in two different colors and cut them down the middle. Then sew them together to make two bi-coloured laces. Practicing lacing an old pair of shoes with these mix and match shoes laces speeds up the process, apparently. Using bi-colored laces apparently can really helps children who struggle to remember right from left.)

There is, I notice, special lace boards that I might try and pinch borrow from kindy, that replicate a shoe, made from wood, with instructions on it.

When I was a child, my brothers taught me how to tie my laces, using some complicated story about a squirrel and a tree - and I learned to tie my laces in a single loop. (From memory, you create "tree roots" by creating a plain knot to start. Then the "tree" is a long thing loop held in one hand. Then the other hand pulls the lace around (the squirrel runs around the tree) and then the squirrel jumps in the hole under the tree, and comes up the other side. By which time the laces (and your fingers, whilst in the practice stage) are nicely knotted. I am trying to repeat history with this method for Olivia.

Olivia has new sneakers. She is a demon on the AusKick oval. She is determined (but slow) in the swooping and looping  and pulling that is the practice that is the lacing of shoes.

I ask her if she needs help.

She looks at me witheringly - and tells me I use the wrong hands and that she doesn't believe in squirrels and trees. She is left handed to my right, and she is spot on - there are blessed few squirrels in Australia.

Just let me figure it out by myself Mum? Please?

And so, like toilet training and the telling of time, it is Olivia that does it all herself, and it's me that worries, unnecessarily, watching on.

Tell me how you learned to tie your laces? How are you teaching your kids to master the art of lacing their shoes?


  1. She'll work it out. She will. As for bunny ears and squirrels... I'm rolling my eyes. Kids don't need that stuff... they are intelligent and capable of learning without it.
    My kids learnt because I refused to buy them velcro shoes. I'm a velcro snob. (Not that it holds much weight now that velcro is *cough* cool)
    For my kids it was practice, encouragement and necessity, their school has a shoes off inside policy except on days of total fire ban.
    I found sitting behind them and guiding them to tie the laces worked best... and I taught them the one loop way... not the double loop way!

    Good luck!

  2. It's great that she wants to work it out for herself. I don't even remember how I learnt it... probably just hours of practice.
    I only just heard about this looping thing to make a tree the other lace was a rabbit that hopped round the tree and through the hole, in primary school from my friends [which was quite some time ago :P]
    Good luck to her :) I'm sure she'll get it.

  3. I love this post, Lucy. It reminds me of when Madeleine (our eldest) came home from pre-school one day and told me Peter had taught her how to tie her shoe laces using the "bunny rabbit ears" method. Hubby was quite put out by the fact that our three year old would listen to "that Evans boy" instead of her parents...Peter was four at the time, and I think he still carries a torch for our Maddie.

  4. PS - I saw him the other day driving his parents' car with L plates ... :O

  5. Im not ready for my daughter to tie her own laces yet. It means she's more grown up than she should be.
    So for now its velcro, or Mum ties them for her.
    I'll teach her one day :)

  6. My brother taught me too. In Australia, it's all about bunnies: no squirrels here Lucy!
    My big boy has just mastered doing his own pyjama buttons. Bless ... she will figure it out. Especially if her brother looks like he might master it first. ;)

  7. My son figured it out at 5 and my daughter at 11 (she has Aspergers and is very uncoordinated).

    I think the analogy with toilet learning is correct. If you try too early, it only frustrates all involved.

  8. We just bought Z his first pair of shoes with laces this week as well. Purely because he had scuffed a hole his "old" (as in he had them for 6 whole days) shoes and there were no velcro ones in his size.

    No idea how we will go.

  9. I'm preparing to dust off a video that we used to teach the big boys, now to teach the twins. We taught my eldest who has autism spectrum lots of thingsvusing video. I filmed Paul as he tied his laces slowly, from his point of view. Then the kids copied as they watched. Bingo! Now... Where has that video got to?

  10. I think the teachers in school taught us because I remember the bunny ears method :)

    For my brother, even when he could tie it, he wasn't strong enough to make it very durable so we ended up retying it anway

    Kids grow up so fast!

  11. My kindergarten teacher had a rule:

    We had until Christmas break to learn to tie our own shoes. After that, she refused to tie them for us.

    The terrible fear of being made fun of was the motivator for me. So I pushed and prodded my parents to teach me, and then I just sat and made myself do it.

    My sister, however, was the exact opposite. And so is my boyfriend's son. Their logic: Why would I take time out of my day to do it myself slowly, when someone else could do it faster?

    So...there were a lot of tears and struggles with them...and dirty/wet/muddy shoe laces.

    I suppose each child is different.

    Good luck!!

  12. In their own time is how my kids learnt, with a little extra rule for my youngest who would still have me tie them for her if I let her..... I wouldn't tie her shoes unless she had tried to tie them herself. This usually resulted initially in a loose version of doing up laces, but gradually got more proficient.

  13. I couldn't teach my son to tie his shoes...I just didn't know where to start and everytime we tried we would both wind up frustrated and angry. A friend of mine taught him finally. Thank goodness for that otherwise I'd still be tying shoes!

  14. My brother taught me and then I practiced and practiced. You mean, after we're done with potty training there's going to be another hurdle to jump? Geesh.

  15. Hi. I just found your lovely blog. Can't wait to enjoy it more! We are just getting there with toilet training our 3 year old. I hadn't even thought of shoe laces...hope it goes well. Emma.

  16. My son is 8 and still hasn't learnt, probably because I have been avoiding it too. My main reason for him having to learn is he ruins the velcro on the shoes before the shoes are worn out. So the time has come for laces,all I try to say is up, over, around through as I am demonstrating, it might help.


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