The Skills Kids Need for School

Tying Shoelaces

Time it right. Thanks to Velcro, there's no reason to push your child to wear sneakers with laces until she's ready and eager to learn how to tie them. Most kids don't have the necessary fine motor skills until they're 4 or 5. If your child still grasps a crayon with her whole fist rather than using the first three fingers, she's not ready.

Choose the best technique. There are two methods of tying shoes -- the traditional one-loop technique and the two-loop (or "bunny ears") method. How to tell which one your child is ready for? Play "Simon says." If he can follow different directions for each hand -- putting his right hand in the air and his left hand behind his back, for instance -- he can handle the one-loop method. In general, though, it's best to teach a method that you're comfortable with and stick to it.

Extra tips:

  • Use a real shoe with thick, sturdy laces, or try the book Red Lace, Yellow Lace, by Mike Casey and Judith Herbst. You can also make your own practice set of laces using a piece of cardboard: Punch two holes in the cardboard. Cut two different colored laces in half, knot them together behind the cardboard, and thread them through the holes.
  • Before you teach your child how to tie a bow, show her how to make a knot, and let her practice that.
  • When you demonstrate to your child, sit next to her, rather than across from her, so she can see exactly what to do.
  • Break the process down into small steps, and use simple instructions, like "Crisscross the laces and bring one under the bridge" and "Make a loop but keep a long tail."
  • See whether your child wants to practice using the sash of a bathrobe. Some kids find the larger size easier.
  • If your child is left-handed but neither you nor your spouse is, try to recruit a left-handed adult to help teach her.

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