Sugar Aunts: Shoe Tying Tips and Tools for Kids

Shoe Tying Tips and Tools for Kids

Ohhh, Shoe Tying.  It can be trying for little ones.  {Shoe TRYing?} Sorry. Yes, I went there.  Today, besides sharing bad shoe tying jokes, I've got this super fun and frugal Teaching Kids to Tie Their shoes activity.  If you've been following along for the past few days, you know I've decided to commit to a 31 Day series of Occupational Therapy posts using free or almost free materials.  It's been fun so far to get back to my OT roots for these posts.  Even though we do share developmental tips and tools in almost every blog post, it's been fun to really focus on my favorite aspects of Occupational Therapy these past few days.  Be sure to follow along every day this month to see all of the creative ideas for learning and developing skills.  For now, let's talk shoe tying!

Tips and tools for teaching kids to tie their shoes from and Occupational Therapist.

Shoe Tying Tips for Kids

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Shoe tying can be very difficult for kids to master.  Typically, children in Kindergarten show developmentally appropriate fine motor skills for shoe tying.  Kindergarten is a great time to start teaching kids to tie their shoes.  They are gaining more dexterity in their fine motor skills, and are getting used to the routines of getting ready for school on a daily basis.  Shoe tying is part of that daily self-care schedule.  However, quite often, kids will start tying shoes at older ages. Shoe tying is tough:  There are many steps, two laces that look the exact same, and many times left-/right confusion. This shoe tying activity is a fun way to teach kids to lace and tie shoes with a fine motor twist.

Tips and tools for teaching kids to tie their shoes from and Occupational Therapist.

Start with a cardboard egg carton.  If you like, give it a quick spray with disinfectant spray when the kids are not around and let the disinfectant dry. I don't typically do this step, though. We just try to make sure to wash our hands after playing with egg cartons.  

Make the holes for the laces.  We used golf tees and a hammer for this part.  See how here.  It's a fun proprioceptive activity for kids that is always a hit in our house. 

Grab a set of shoe laces.  Using two different colors is best for new shoe tying friends.  Tie the laces together at one end and thread them through the holes of the egg carton.  Start lacing the holes the whole way up the egg carton.  Threading the holes is an excellent fine motor task for kids.  My three year old loved this and wanted to take the laces out and do it again.  Threading the laces encourages bilateral hand coordination which is vital for shoe tying.
Tips and tools for teaching kids to tie their shoes from and Occupational Therapist.

Now we're ready to practice tying shoes.  The key to teaching kids to tie their own shoes is calm, quiet, practice.  It's easy for kids to get upset, frustrated, or anxious when there are so many steps and may feel rushed or upset about their fumbling fingers.  Many times, children are excited to learn to tie their shoes.  Embrace it, go with it, and practice!  But other times, they just don't want to learn.  They might have velcro shoes that they are perfectly happy to pull on quite quickly.  If kids are balking at practiceing, the struggle to get them to sit down can be a difficult thing to overcome from the very beginning and only make the practice time more difficult.  If that is the case, give them time, and revisit shoe tying in a week or two.  With my older child and from helping lots of kids learn to tie their shoes, I've seen the incentive of a new pair of sneakers with laces bring on the ambition to give it a shot.  Other times, it's a creative way to practice, simplified directions, or learning steps in chunks that gives kids an oomph of "hey! I CAN do this!"  Here are some of my tips for helping kids with shoe tying:
  • Consistent verbal cues for each step. Use the same words each time.
  • Practice with the shoe in your child's lap, not on their foot.  Once they master shoe tying (or at least start to get the hang of it), then practice with their shoe on their foot.  It will then take more practice with the shoe on their foot because when they are wearing the shoe, the laces shorten a bit.
  • Place the shoe in their lap or on the floor positioned with the heel close to them and the toe pointing away.
  • Practice with two different colored shoe laces.
  • Tie your own shoe as you prompt your child to tie theirs.  Do the steps at the same time.  Sit beside and position your shoe slightly in front of your child.  You want them to see your shoe as a model in the same position as yours and in a place where they can see your shoe without having to turn their head to much.
  • Avoid saying "right" and "left" when talking about the different strings.  Keeping track of the right/left sides can complicate things for a young child.  Use the names of the laces if you are using two different colored laces or just say, "the lace on this side of the shoe", or the "Pick up the lace with the hand you write with."
  • Work in chunks.  Practice only the first step until your child masters that part.  Then, teach the next step and work on those tow steps together before moving onto the next step.
  • Practice with items other than laces.  Shoe laces can be very difficult for young kids to manage.  If they have any trouble with fine motor skills or bilateral hand coordination, it is especially difficult.  Try practicing with stiff shoe laces, wire-edged ribbons, pipe cleaners (twist the ends of two together for length!), or Wikki Stix.
  • When you get to the step where your child pinches the loop, make sure they are holding it close to the shoe.  If they are pinching the loop too far from the shoe, the knot will be too loose.
  • If you've been practicing shoe tying for some time and your child is just having too much difficulty, it might be other underlying reasons.  To tie shoes, kids need fine motor skills, bilateral hand coordination, visual perceptual skills, hand-eye coordination, and hand strength just to get the task of shoe tying done. If you feel your child has a difficulty in one of these areas, contact your pediatrician for a referral to an Occupational Therapist for individual evaluation and treatment.
  • I like the simplified steps below for shoe tying.  They are simple and easy for kids to remember.  Write them down and read them as you go through shoe tying with your child.  Our newsletter subscribers can get the image below as a free printable.  Just sign up here.  If you are already a subscriber, you should have received an email upon subscribing directing you to all of our free subscriber-only freebies.

Teach kids how to tie their shoes free printable

Easy Steps to Teach Kids to Tie Their Shoes:
1. Put both laces on one side of the shoe.
2. Pick up one lace and go over and under the other lace.
3. Hold the ends of both laces and pull tightly.
4. Pick up the middle of the left lace and pinch it at the bottom.  Hold it close to the shoe.
5. Pick up the other lace and wrap it around the loop.
6. Push the lace through with your finger.
7. Grab the loop with your hand...Grab the other loop with the other hand...And pull.

(Remember to avoid using the words "right" and "left" unless your child has a good grasp of these words.  You can instead use the names of the colored laces, if using two different colored laces, OR use "the lace on this side" or the "hand you write with". 

Tips and tools for teaching kids to tie their shoes from and Occupational Therapist.

SHoe tying tips and tools for helping kids learn to tie their shoes. Tips from an Occupational Therapist

Looking for more ways to practice shoe tying with kids?  These toys and tools are fun ways to practice with kids.  While they items below are definitely not free or inexpensive (although some are!), they are additional ideas for your soon-to-be-shoe-tyer.  Perhaps you have friends or relatives who are asking for gift ideas for your child, or you are looking for ideas for upcoming holidays.  These are a few ideas that I love for working on shoe tying and can help kids in their fine motor dexterity to help them become successful at tying shoes.

This Melissa & Doug Deluxe Wood Lacing Sneaker is a great practice tool, with it's bright colors and stiffer laces than the ones typically on shoes that we wear.  Practice on the model before moving to your child's real shoe.

If you have a little one who loves to read, this I Can Tie My Own Shoes Book is a real incentive to practice shoe tying.

  The Original Toy Company Tie Me Lacing Shoe is another fun model shoe with bright and bold colors.  This is a good toy to take along on outings with it's flat shape.

PlanToys Plan Preschool Tie-Up Shoe Preschool is another fun shoe to practice tying.

 Sometimes, kids just can't get the hang of shoe tying no matter how hard they try.  These Tie Buddies Shoe Accessory are great for kids that have trouble at the "loop part" of shoe tying.  They eliminate the loops and give kids something to hold onto while tying.  Kids with hand weakness will benefit from this tool.

Another modification to shoe tying are these No Tie Shoe Lock Laces .  They can be laced in shoes and help the child's shoe stay snug.

  Magic Shoelaces  are another way to modify shoe tying.  Use these until your child is ready and able to practice effectively.  They are great laces for kids with difficulties in any of the underlying skills needed for shoe tying.

I love a creative practice technique when it comes to any skill for kids.  This Plastic Lacing Cord is an excellent way to practice shoe tying with a more resistive lace.  Use them in place of shoelaces in the egg carton activity that we shared today.  (Watch the blog for an upcoming shoe tying activity that we did recently!  I'll be sure to update this post with the link when it goes live!)

  Lacing & Tracing Dinosaurs can help kids with lacing, managing strings, threading, bilateral hand coordination, and strength.  It's a great precursor activity to practicing shoe tying.  Try these Lacing & Tracing Sea Life cards, too.

For more functional and appropriate play to work on shoe tying, I love this Colorful Caterpillars Game .  It works on bilateral hand coordination and strength needed to tie shoes with dexterity and ease.

                                 Tips and tools for teaching kids to tie their shoes from and Occupational Therapist.

I hope you were able to find some helpful tips and tools in this post.  Be sure to follow my Pinterest board, Teaching Kids to Get Dressed Independently for more ideas for kids.  

Love this post?  Pin it!  And don't forget to use that shoe tying joke!  Jokes help with shoe tying :)
Try these shoe tying tips and tricks for teaching kids how to tie their shoes, from an Occupational Therapist


  1. This is such a fun way to help kids learn to tie their shoes.

    Thanks for linking up at Turn It Up Tuesday!

  2. This is awesome. I'm sending this to my daughter who has little ones. My youngest is 14. Such a miles stone when they learn how. Great idea for helping the kids to learn.


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