How to Teach Your Child to Tie Their Shoes

Medically Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on August 20, 2022
5 min read

We all know the situation — you try to get your child to tie their shoes on their own to no avail. Teaching a child to tie shoes is, sometimes, more complex than most parents think. However, through patience and simplified techniques, you’ll be able to teach your child in no time. Here’s what you need to know. 

Teaching your child how to tie their shoes is an unavoidable part of parenthood. Not only does it allow them to dress on their own, but it also helps them develop key motor skills at an early age. While there isn’t such a thing as a strict "shoe tying age," most children will learn it during their first grade of elementary school.

Yet, while teaching your child to tie their shoes may be challenging, avoiding frustration can go a long way in helping the teaching process. Understanding children's problems when learning how to lace their shoes will help you address your child’s difficulties correctly. Usually, children have trouble:

  • Memorizing the steps
  • Paying attention all the way through
  • Bending over to reach the shoes
  • Coordinating the necessary precise movements

However, there are different ways to address these issues, either by buying a handful of accessories or through simplified tying techniques. Remember that all kids have different learning experiences, so don’t get frustrated if your child seems to be taking a bit longer than usual.

While many of us may have learned the hard way, it might be a good idea to adapt how you teach your child to tie their shoes. Naturally, there isn’t a universal solution for these issues, but here are some ideas you can try out.

Lacing board. Lacing boards can help your child get used to the precise motor skills needed for tying shoelaces. Not only will they help in speeding the learning process, but they are also a fantastic DIY project both for parents and children.

Laces with different colors. Some kids may find it easier to understand how shoelaces work when they are colored differently. This way, they can understand how knots are formed instead of only remembering a series of steps.

Putting shoes on the table. Most children will benefit from not having to crouch or bend down for extended periods of time while learning how to tie their shoes. Simply putting a shoe on a table may go a long way in reducing both your child’s and your own frustration.

Most people learn how to tie their shoes the traditional way, which involves tying a simple knot first and then forming the famous bunny ears. This is one of the fastest shoe tying methods and is simple enough for most kids.

  1. Take a shoelace in each hand and cross them over at about half of their lengths. 
  2. Grab the end of the lace that’s closer to you and put it over the other one. The end of the first lace should now hang between a small arc formed by the two laces.
  3. Poke the hanging end of the first lace through the arc, and pull tightly from the ends of both of the laces. This is the first knot, which will loosely hold the laces together.
  4. To make the ears, grab the first lace and make a small loop, forming a sort of "bunny ear." Hold it with one hand, and make a similar loop with the other lace.
  5. Once the ears are done, cross the middle of the first ear over the middle of the other one. Then, take the top of the second ear and put it over the first one, in a similar way to the first knot.
  6. Poke the second ear through the arc and pull from both ears, either from their ends or from the insides. If done correctly, the shoes will now be tied with two bunny ears hanging from the top.

If you find that your child isn’t receptive to the bunny ears method, you might want to try some other different ways to tie shoes. This one, for example, relies more heavily on the classic knots, avoiding the confusion often caused by the bunny ears.

  1. Take the shoelaces and cross them at half of their lengths, like with the bunny ears method.
  2. Put the end of the lace that’s in front of you over the other one, once again forming a small arc with a hanging lace in the middle.
  3. Pull the hanging lace between the arc and pull the whole knot tightly.
  4. Once the knot is done, repeat the process to form another knot. However, this time, don’t pull tightly on the final step — instead, leave a small circle between the knots.
  5. Take the end of one of the shoelaces and pass it through the circle. Don’t pull too much — the lace should now form a small bunny ear. 
  6. Repeat the previous step with the other lace.
  7. Finally, pull both ears tightly.

More often than not, children will have issues learning how to tie shoelaces. While this is completely normal, you may want to speed up the process to avoid frustration. For example, one could try using a bigger, adult-sized shoe to show the correct technique to a child.

However, it’s important to remember that practice is key — try to encourage your child to tie their shoes whenever possible. For example, you could offer some practice time during boring car trips or while waiting for a doctor’s appointment.

If you find that your child is having trouble coordinating the precise movements required for tying shoelaces, you may want to try some activities for improving motor skills. These fun activities will help them develop finer hand coordination, allowing for an easier time while tying their shoes. Some of these activities include:

  • Painting
  • Gardening
  • Playing with putty and play-dough
  • Rice racing

While it’s normal for kids to have difficulties when learning how to tie their shoes, if you find that they are taking too long, it might be time to check with a professional. If you have any doubts, ask your pediatrician for advice, as they’ll know how to proceed if necessary.