Shoelace Tips for Teaching Children

3-yo child (pic)

Most children are taught to tie their shoelaces when they are somewhere around five years old. This section presents several tips for teaching children – plus something for the teacher!

Children Learning To Tie Shoelaces

  • Sit comfortably and practice with a shoe on a table, or with a shoelace or rope wrapped around the thigh, instead of awkwardly reaching down to tie your shoes.
  • Replace thin shoelaces with something easier to grip. Soft, wide (but not too fat) laces are ideal.
  • Thick shoelaces also provide extra friction in the eyelets, which helps keep the Starting Knot tight while working on the tricky finishing bow.
  • Replace slippery synthetic shoelaces with ones made of cotton or other natural fibers, as these provide better grip and also help keep the Starting Knot tight.
  • Knot (icon) Use a Double Starting Knot, which keeps things even tighter.
  • Make sure the shoes fit snugly. If the shoe is already nice and tight, the shoelaces don't have to be tied quite so tightly, making it easier while learning.
  • Buy training shoelaces with half one color and half another color, or join together two half shoelaces of different colors (as per Half & Half Lacing), making it easier to follow either colored diagrams or verbal instructions.
  • Use a felt tip marker to permanently highlight the points on the shoelace that should be gripped together when making a loop or loops.
  • Knot the very ends of each shoelace to stop those ends being accidentally pulled through the knot (when tightening) or out of the eyelets (when loosening).
  • A neater alternative to knotting the ends is to push the aglet back into the end of the shoelace, resulting in a thick, bulged end with the aglet inside. It's a bit like turning a sock inside out by pushing in the toe. Note that this only works with some laces, particularly with flat ones.
  • Make sure the child's shoelaces are untied every night when they remove their shoes. This will ensure that they can't take a shortcut and try to shove their foot into a shoe that's still tied. Besides being better for both the feet and the shoes, the daily ritual of tying also helps them to learn more quickly.

Left Handed Children / Teachers

  • Sit in front of your child and have them mirror your movements. Make sure that they also mirror the Starting Knot in order to prevent the finished result becoming an un-balanced Granny Knot (which comes undone).
  • Alternatively, try the Ian Knot, in which neither hand is really dominant.

Tips For The Teacher

  • Have the child sit at a table or on the floor, with you either standing or sitting behind them, then reach around their body to demonstrate tying the shoelace knot in front of them. That way the child can see your hand and finger movements from their perspective and can copy them more easily.
  • Before teaching any shoelace knot to your child, try learning a new knot yourself, particularly the Ian Knot (if you don't already know it). This is a great way of reliving the difficulty and frustration of having to pay attention to “Loops” and “Loose Ends” and what to hold and what to let go, all of which otherwise happen without thinking when you use your existing technique.
  • Granny knot (pic) Double-check the instructions for the method that you will be teaching to ensure that your technique does not result in an un-balanced Granny Knot (which comes undone).
  • When the child finally succeeds, check the result for the tell-tale “Crooked Bow”, indicating that they have probably done one of the steps in reverse and produced a Granny Knot (which comes undone).

Which Knot To Teach

If you're looking for a simple way to teach your kids to tie their shoelaces, forget the huge collection of Shoelace Knots on this site (which is presented mainly as a scientific and/or historical archive) and stick with these three basic shoelace knots:

3 × Identical Outcomes

It's important to realize that, if tied correctly, all three methods produce the identical finished knot! I therefore recommend that you consider trying any (or all) of these methods and seeing which works best with your child, as different methods can suit different learning styles.

  • The “Standard Shoelace Knot” has the most individual steps to memorize and the most opportunities for making mistakes, and thus is probably the most difficult to teach and learn.
  • The “Two Loop Shoelace Knot” is easier because the second stage is so similar to the first stage. However, this is the main reason that it's often taught and/or learned incorrectly, resulting in a Granny Knot (which comes undone). It's therefore important to also teach the fact that the second stage should be done in reverse to the first stage. A second, unrelated problem is that kids will often be teased as they get older for using this “Kiddie's Knot”, despite it being a perfectly good method if done correctly.
  • Ian Knot (icon) The “Ian Knot” has the fewest steps to memorize and is also less biased towards left or right handedness. Many occupational therapists have had great success with this knot, which I believe is because it has fewer sequential steps to memorize and perform. Once they get the starting position correct, the rest just flows fairly smoothly. This is especially helpful for children with sequencing difficulties.

NOTE: Please don't compare any of these knots with the one you're currently using (and can do automatically) and dismiss it as being too tricky. If you're not willing to learn it yourself, at least let your child try it!

If you have any useful shoelace tips for teaching children, please Contact Ian so that they can be shared with others.

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This page last updated: 09-Apr-2024. Copyright © 2005-2024 by Ian W. Fieggen. All rights reserved.

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