Tying Shoes, one CAN do step at a time!



Originally posted 08/2015; Updated: 10/14/2021


I frequently see teachers and parents try to teach children how to tie their shoes by telling them all of the steps at one time. To me, that seems like reading over an unfamiliar and complicated recipe and then going into the kitchen and trying to prepare the multi-step meal without ever looking back at the recipe. That is unlikely to go well!



These same parents and teachers are usually very good at breaking down other tasks into smaller more manageable steps and teaching those one at a time before moving on to the next step.



Tying shoes should be no different!



This task can be broken down into many, smaller steps. The idea is to teach your child one step until they can do it with ease. Then teach the next step. Practice that until they can do it with ease. Then teach the next step.



The way it looked in our house was: Big Sister needed to get her shoes on so we could go out. She would like for us to do the whole thing from putting her shoes on through the tying process.



We did do that for a while, especially while she was young. But we have Little W now and she's older, so she can learn to do part. I'll show you the pictures of the steps, but I taught her this a while ago, so these pictures are just for demonstration purposes. I did not do it all in one day!



I first asked her what she can do. "Show me how much you can do." Ok, she could put on her socks and get the shoes on her feet. Great! That became the expected amount for her to do.


I showed her the next step: Pull the tongue of the shoe up. That's it. Pull the tongue up. I had her practice again, this time adding in pulling the tongue up. Success! She could do that, too!


Next day... time to put on shoes, again!


I had her do the things she can do to get it started. She easily put on socks, shoes and with a cue ("remember to pull the tongue up!") pulled the tongue up. Excellent! Now, I could either let her keep doing that step for a few days or add another one. Since that was an easy step, I added the next step immediately. Pull the laces tight. I told her and showed her. Then, I loosened the laces and let her try. Pretty good. We tried the other shoe. I showed her and told her, loosened her laces and let her try.



We did that for a few days. Then added in the next step: cross the laces. She did all of the steps I know she can do and then I showed her while I told her what I was doing. "I'm crossing the laces." Then, I let her try. No problem. I don't complicate the whole thing by telling her all of the steps that I am doing. I only say the step she is learning at that time.



Next day, she did all of the steps including crossing the laces and wanted to know what the next step was (now that she has had success and I've praised her for each step that she has mastered, she is eager to learn the next step). Ok, now put the top lace under the bottom lace. It makes more sense when I showed her. We practiced a few times. The tricky part here was keeping the laces on the right side.