Learning to tie your shoes

Friday, November 4, 2011 by Marion Wilm


In this fast-paced world where we search for the fast and easy way, we are allowing both normal and special needs children to grow up without teaching them to tie their shoes.  As an occupational therapist, I have watched children shift to wearing tennis shoes with elastic or velcro fasteners, the explosion of slip on shoes including crocs and flip flops, and even buckles that are mere decorations for a velcro closure.  Children are rushed out the door by their parents to get to school or extra curricular activities on time so their parents quickly tie their shoes for them....that is if their shoes even have laces. 

It is time to slow down long enough for your children to learn to master some necessary skills.  I can't believe the pride that children of all ages feel when they learn to tie their shoes, close their own jacket zippers, or manage their own small buttons, snaps, and buckles. 

Most children (even those with special needs) can learn to tie their own shoes using a consistent approach.  Have only one person practice the skill with the child so that only one method is taught.  There are many good methods, but the key is to break the task down into small steps and be consistent.  I always start each step of the task with the dominant hand leaving the non dominant hand as the "holding" hand.  Don't move on to the next step until the previous step is learned and mastered.  It is also easier to practice with laces that are very long since short laces don't leave enough room to pull through.  All it takes is some repetition. 

So parents, sit down with your child over the age of 5 and start teaching them how to tie their shoes.  Then celebrate with them once they achieve this life skill!

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