Saturday, January 19, 2013

One, Two Buckle My Shoe!

We have been working on tying shoes, and we're coming along quite nicely!  Christian turns five next month, and he really wants to learn how to tie his shoes all by himself.  It's one of his goals for 2013.  

I should probably preface this post by saying that on average, most children are able to tie their shoes or learn how to tie their shoes around the time that they begin kindergarten (or just a bit before).  Many many moons ago, when I was in kindergarten, learning how to tie shoes was part of the kinder curriculum!  My family taught me how to tie my shoes before kindergarten (my mother was a kindergarten teacher at that time-so why not go ahead and teach me?).  I also had a big brother and a big sister who probably helped out with the learning process too.  I do remember quite vividly sitting on the floor in my parents bedroom practicing over and over.  It didn't seem like a dramatic, troublesome experience.  I actually remember feeling quite proud of myself!  

As you all know, times have changed!  If a child goes to kinder without knowing how to tie their shoes, they will not be turned away, looked down upon, or shunned. However, teachers are not going to reallocate instructional time to give extra support to a student who hasn't mastered this particular skill.  With all of the expectations that fall within kindergarten curriculum, there is no time for learning to tie shoes.  It's challenging enough to cover everything-with cross curricular instruction, technology, and great teaching resources on the web it is much easier, but time is still such a critical factor!

Back to Christian. . I think part of his eagerness stems from a desire to choose his own shoes and get them on without hearing me say "Go get your shoes!  Let's get them on! Why do you have these shoes?  They don't match!"  In the picture below, you can see their pairs of Christian's play/school shoes.  When he gets to choose his own shoes, guess which ones he picks? 

Christian is a typical first born.  He's a go-getter!  He has always been Mr. Independent.  It doesn't matter what color he's wearing, where we're going, or what pair of shoes he's supposed to grab. . . he always goes for the same choice!
Yesterday we spent about 10 minutes working on shoe tying, and he's working SO hard!  He told me at the end of the practice session, "I think we need to practice a little bit every day."  Because he wants to learn, and he has such a positive attitude about it, we're learning!  So here a few tips from me! 

1.  Use poems and stories!  
Children naturally love to see pictures and hear cute rhymes and stories.  
Why not incorporate a few into the time that you spend practicing?!?

Tying Shoes
By Sharon MacDonald

My fingers don't know how To weave two strings about.

There must be some magic To make a bow come out.

Everyone has shown me where The skinny strings should go.

In a week or two, I'll learn to tie But for now - I'll use Velcro.

The next few poems are from "Can Teach."

Criss Cross and go under the bridge Then you got to pull it tight.

Make a loop but keep a long tail That is how to do it right

Then you take the other string  and you wrap it 'round the loop

Pull it through the hole Now you got the scoop

Build a tee pee Come inside

Close it tight so we can hide

Over the mountain

And around we go

Here's my arrow

And here's my bow!

My Shoelace Blues
I've tried and tried to tie you, shoe. I've never done it yet.

A loop that flip-flops on the floor Is as close as I can get.

I've practiced on spaghetti. I've practiced on the mop.

I've practiced on my sister  Until she made me stop.

So here's the loop again, shoe. I'll hold it with my thumb.

I'll wrap the other end around...And yank it into bows.  It's done!

2.  Practice, practice, practice & Reward progress with praise and positive feedback.
It only takes 5-10 minutes of consistent practice each day to help your child with this skill.  Just like other tasks that can be very overwhelming, this one needs to be broken down into tiny steps.  Then you have to repeat those steps over and over until it becomes easy peasy lemon squeezy!
Celebrate the small victories with lots of praise, and before you know it, you'll see huge amounts of progress!

3.  Relate the terminology to your child, and make sure you use common language!
Christian knows his first step is to make an "X."  Because he loves the alphabet, and can relate many life skills to the way the letters look, it makes the first part of tying his shoes very easy and comfortable for him.

If you're partnering with a spouse or another caregiver to teach this skill, make sure you're teaching the same way with the same vocabulary.  For most children, it can be quite confusing and frustrating to hear two different things.  Just make sure you're on the same page.  I did show Christian two different ways, however, I allowed him to choose the one that he thought would work best for him.  Then I communicated that with Mr. Perry, and it sure does make things a lot less complicated!


  1. Great post, Brooke. As a former K teacher, I informed parents on Back to School Night that I tied shoes until Thanksgiving. Then, students would help other students. What a great incentive it was. And when a child could demonstrate that he/she could tie, I presented him/her with a Tyin' Lion certificate, which was a cute picture of a lion with a ribbon threaded through two holes in the mane to be tied into a bow! Good luck to Christian. He'll get it soon, I'm sure!

  2. Thank you for your encouragement. I love the idea of a "tyin' lion"!


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