How to Teach Kids to Tie Their Shoes

September 16, 2021


Velcro straps and elasticised sides make footwear easy in your child’s first years, but laces are the future! 

School shoes, runners and boots all rely on a good knot to get a great fit, and shoe lacing tying is a need-to-know skill for older kids, because it enables independent dressing.

Age-wise, most five-year-olds are still learning how to tie shoe laces and some kids take a couple more years to master the technique. 

Finger strength, coordination, patience and persistence are all needed to perfect a bow, and when your child is able to cut paper and manage little buttons, they’re probably ready for a lesson in Shoe Lace Tying 101.

What’s a kid-friendly shoe-tying technique?

The ‘bunny ears’ method is the easiest way to teach shoe lacing tying, and it helps to start with two different coloured laces (e.g. black and white) in the practice shoe, so your kiddo can see which lace goes where. 

To tie a bunny ears bow:

  1. Hold one shoe lace between each finger and thumb – white in the left hand, black in the right.
  2. Cross the black lace over the white one, halfway up.
  3. Fold the black lace over the white and push its tip through the centre space.
  4. Pull both laces tight, so the cross is snug against the shoe.
  5. Fold the black lace in the middle and pinch it to make a loop (or ‘bunny ear’), leaving some lace hanging free.
  6. Repeat with the white lace.
  7. Cross the middle of the black bunny ear over the middle of the white one.
  8. Fold the top of the white bunny ear over the black one and push it through the centre space.
  9. Pull both bunny ear ends tight to make the bow, and that’s how to teach kids to tie shoes.

Even though this is the simplest method, the steps can be tricky to grasp, so sit next to your child with the shoe facing forward and show them how you tie a lace – first at normal speed, then step-by-step.

Once your tyke is ready to have a go, place the shoe in their lap or in front of them. For beginners, this is usually easier than tying a shoe they’re wearing.

You and your child might want to tie one shoe each, following the steps together. Alternatively, you can go shoe-free and focus on lending a helping hand.  

Switch to same-coloured laces once your child knows what’s what, or colour in one side of the lace from the get-go, allowing them to tell one side from the other. 

It can also help to:

  • Print off Raising Children’s bunny ears tutorial, so your child can visualise the steps.
  • Hop onto YouTube and watch shoe lace tying in action (this bunny ears method is a good alternative to the one above).
  • Practice on an adult-sized shoe and/or use extra-long laces.
  • Buy or make a shoe lace practice board or get hold of a board book with real laces to tie.  

What do you need to keep in mind?

When it comes to shoe lace tying, practice makes perfect, and time isn’t of the essence. 

If a good knot is eluding your tot, take things slowly, stay positive, be patient and put the laces away for a while if they’re struggling. 

At different ages, your child might learn to untie a knot, tie a knot, and finally, tie a bow.

Remember, too, that one technique doesn’t fit all kids. If the bunny ears aren’t working for your child, try another method, like this one, and think about ways to tune your child’s fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination. 

Activities like threading, weaving, sorting, stacking, collage, play dough, cutting, drawing, throwing and catching all help to strengthen the skills they need for shoe lace tying.

Also, young children learn through play, so it’s important to keep things fun. Colourful laces are attractive to littlies, bow practice can be incorporated into playtime, and once your older child has the tying under control, they can graduate to creative lacing

Teaching kids to tie shoes sets them up for life, and at child care, self-help skills are part of the daily activity program

To find a centre that will help your little one learn and thrive, search Toddle.

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