Learning to tie your shoelaces is a right of passage for early primary school children. It comes with a lot of persistence, assistance, double knots and loose laces. While there is some debate whether the traditional single loop (“around the tree and down the bunny hole”) method is simpler than the double-looped bunny ears method – here are some helpful tips to support your child learning to tie their own laces (and they don’t have anything to do with rabbits!).
- The Shoelace – the choice in the type of shoelace used can support or hinder the process For example using stiffer shoelaces can assist with keeping the bow in place or choosing flatter cotton laces can mean that friction helps hold the knot in place when pulled tight. Round or synthetic laces may last longer; however they may be more slippery and harder to tie tight. You may also consider having the two ends of the lace be different colours, as this may assist your child see the different parts as they learn to tie the bows. Whichever shoelaces you choose, do make sure that the laces are long enough, as it is important that there is plenty of space for those loops and bows.
- Lacing Method– There are lots of different ways to lace a shoe. Using a “lock lacing” method when lacing shoes, may assist in holding the shoelace taut at the top while little fingers manipulate the knot and bow.
- Backward Chaining – this is just a fancy term for breaking down tasks into smaller steps and teaching them in reverse order. In shoelace tying this means the adult does all but the last step (pulling the bow tight) and lets the child complete the task. The adult then fades back doing less and less while the child does more, always performing the last steps …. and getting that amazing sense of achievement for finishing!
- Seek Alternatives – sometimes little fingers are just not ready to learn to tie those laces, but we have outgrown Velcro laces – don’t despair! There are lots of alternatives on the market to assist. Most of them involve elastic – whether you invest in some branded no-tie shoelaces, adjustable elastic cords or simply buy a length of thick elastic and tie in a bow with a double knot – these options will allow shoes to be simply slipped on and off without the need to tie/untie the laces.
Need some visuals to help with learning to tie those laces – here are some YouTube videos which may help you decide which method is best for you and your child.
Traditional method vs Bunny Ears Method
Happy Shoelace Tying!
LEISHA WARD, Occupational Therapist