What age should children learn to tie their own shoes?
Your kindergarten aged child is sent home from school at the beginning of Christmas break with a note from the teacher. The note states that the teacher will no longer be tyeing shoes for any child when they return to school in the new year. She also indicates that your child needs to practice this skill. What do you think about this development?
In my head this is how I reacted to this letter of proclamation: “Who in the bleep does this lady think she is, telling me my child needs to learn how to tie his shoes.” In reality, unfortunately, my reaction was quite different. I squared my shoulders and rolled up my sleeves and set out with determination to teach my child how to tie his shoes. It did not end well. Not only did my child shed some tears but so did I and we were unsuccessful and both overwhelmingly frustrated. So I returned to my original style of reaction and decided that I would fix her and only send my child to school with Velcro sneakers. Problem solved! Or so I thought. Next thing I know a friend is sharing how excited she was that her child had learned to tie his shoes. Well, this time I let my mothering insecurity take over and again set out to teach my child this “so important can’t succeed in life without it skill.” This time with the bitter taste of defeat still lingering in our mouths, we gave up much easier. It was still frustrating and not a good experience by any stretch of the imagination. So I decided that I did not care if my child wore Velcro shoes for the rest of his life and we did not revisit this learning experience again. Fast forward 3 years and my son is preparing for his first basketball practice. We went out and bought sneakers and much to my chagrin they were sneakers with laces. Yikes. I gently reminded my son that he might need to learn to tie shoes if he were going to wear these sneakers to basketball practice. He ignored my pleading to pick a different pair and was insistent these were the sneakers he had to have to be any good at basketball. Without a single word from me, he approached me the next day and asked me to show him how to tie his shoes. So I showed him once. He put on his sneaker and tied it with some prompting and help from me. He then untied them and did it again all by himself. A few days later, I found him sitting by himself, tying and untying his sneakers repeatedly. He then puffed up his chest and held his chin high and said, “I am a swimmer and I know how to adjust my own goggles so if I am going to be a basketball player I need to know how to tie my sneakers.” The next few days were filled with happiness as he showed everyone in our path that he could now tie his shoes at the ripe old age of 9! I am so happy he learned to tie his shoes but I also had a back up plan for on the basketball court…lace lockers. So my take away and best piece of parenting advice in this situation is simply to wait. When your child is ready to learn he will. There should not be mounds of frustration and tears. It really is something that can wait until your child has the manual dexterity and desire to learn this skill.
Before I become a parent I had all these expectations in my head about what my child would be like. No co-sleeping, never having a happy meal, potty trained by 2, and knowing how to tie their shoes by 4. Well guess what? None of those things happened, ha! And let me tell you, it’s not from lack of trying. I got all sorts of advice. Some helpful, like book recommendations, so not-so-helpful, like people saying she is just lazy and I baby her. Well it turns out that my little smart, overachieving in other areas daughter still can’t tie her shoes. She’s 6 now, and has sensory processing disorder and underdeveloped hand muscle. Which means she has a hard time grasping things, and she also has a problem dealing with a lot of sensory input. We still practice and with physical therapy I’m sure she will be lacing up her running shoes anytime now ;).
I am a mom of three unique children. I currently have two in private school and one in preschool for 15 hours a week. I have two children who can tie their shoes and one who can’t. I am sure you find this surprising I never actually sat down with my children and tied shoes with them over and over. I showed them a couple of times and when I did their shoes I explained what I was doing. I never really thought much about it but I do know my children are visual learners so I am assuming this is the way they learned. The question was at what age did they learn and the answer is both learned at 6. They were both in first grade at the time so they missed that goal in kindergarten.
I never had a teacher write me about them not being able to tie their shoes most likely because my daughter rarely wears tied shoes and my son had Velcro shoes. If a teacher did write me about an issue my child had I would evaluate it in this way: Is this a building block skill that means is this a skill that my child needs in order to do something more complex. Is it skill that they have to have because the task can’t be accomplished unless they are able to do this skill first?
The lack of shoe tying never bothered me because they make Velcro shoes. It also wasn’t an academic skill that would result in my child not reaching future milestones. I also send my children to a private school because class numbers are smaller so it is my assumption that the teachers are a little more lenient on the development of these skill sets because they have the time to help foster their natural development.
I also believe that children learn in context. We did have this puzzle to practice shoe tying and this doll as well. I find that when a child is doing something for fun they aren’t thinking about actually acquiring a skill they are just playing it will happen. I think play is a great way to teach children and depending on your child if you provide them with the enough opportunities they will pick up the skills on their own time. I have learned that picking my battles is more effective than measuring my children using someone else’s ruler.
Tell us what you think? Did you have a good experience teaching your children to tie their own shoes or was it unpleasant? Do they still not know how? Does that bother you? Do you have and tricks or tips for other parents struggling with this skill? Tell us in the comment section below.