Teaching your dyspraxic child how to tie their shoelaces.
30+ tips, videos and products to help teach your child how to tie their shoes successfully:
- As with most fine motor skills teach your child to tie shoelaces
one step at a time, let them master that stage, then teach the next.
- A little known trick is to use a double twist to get started as it stops the laces from slipping and coming undone – especially good when your child cannot tie laces tightly (put one lace over and under the other twice before forming a bow).
- Start to learn how to tie your shoelaces by sitting comfortably and practise with a wooden shoe or a shoe on the table facing away from you so that it’s in the position that your own shoe would be in if you bent down to tie it, much more preferable to learning whilst uncomfortably reaching down to tie your shoes.
- Invite your child to hold one end of the shoestring in each hand. Everything you tell them to do, you should also do so that they can copy you.
- Make sure the laces are long enough before to start!
- Do you need to change the laces in your shoes? replace thin laces with firmer, slightly thicker laces that are easier to grip. Synthetic shoelaces can be slippy to use, select a natural cotton lace as they provide better grip.
- If you are demonstrating, sit to the side of your child so they can see you tying your laces at the same angle that they are tying theirs. If you are demonstrating how to tie them whilst sat at the table you can stand behind your child and reach around them to the shoe that is directly in front of them so that they really do get the best perspective and can copy more easily.
- Read instructions and play videos to yourself first so that you are brimming with confidence before demonstrating to your child.
- The bunny ear method (two loop knot) worked for my son, stage by stage:
- The bunny ears method helps your child tie a square knot, one of the easiest knots to learn. The steps to the bunny method:
- Fold each end of the lace into a single “bunny ear.” You can hold the “ears” in place between your thumb and pointer finger on each hand.
- Cross the bunny ears so that they form an “X” in the air.
- Loop the bottom bunny ear over and through the top bunny ear. This will create a second knot.
- Pull the bunny ears out to the side away from the shoe. This will create a square knot that will not easily come undone and will hold the shoe in place.
- If you haven’t tried the new Lace’mup yet we would highly recommend it, for just £3 you can’t go wrong and lasts long enough to be passed down to the next in line! Children can often get to the stage of making the rabbits ears but then it’s all fingers and thumbs, sad faces and lost laces thereafter. This clever little device holds the ears whilst your child masters tying them together to finish the bow. Once tied you just pull it away from the laces and hey presto! shoelaces tied.
- This handy gem of simplicity has been transforming children’s lives. One Dyspraxic mum wrote: “I bought a Lace’mup for my daughter who is Dyspraxic and therefore struggles with laces. She can’t wear the shoes she wants to wear. It’s only been in our house a day or so but instantly she can tie her shoes. She can now buy the shoes she wants and is already looking online at lace up boots.”
- Lace’mups video
- Try a lacing card using pipecleaners for laces (tie two different coloured ones together to help your child master the steps) helps
the laces to stay in place and provides more stability whilst they learn to tie the knots and loops.
- Reinforce learning by having your child verbalise the steps as they go.
- Some parents have found colouring one end of the shoe lace another colour with a fabric pen quite helpful for visual instruction. This really helps when your child struggles with left right confusion, you can use colour instruction instead.
- Tying shoe laces requires a level of dexterity most kids don’t possess until they’re between five and seven, so try not to start before they are ready.
- Tying shoelaces requires not only good fine motor skills, it
requires good visual perception, good hand eye coordination, bimanual hand use (bilateral coordination), tactile perception, and hand strength. You might need to practise these skills first to enable shoe tying success later.
- If your child has poor proprioception or poor tactile perception their ability to know what their fingers are doing without being able to see them is a challenge for them. There is a lot of ‘feeling’ going on when tying shoe laces. Choose a more tactile shoe lace to improve the ‘feel’.
- Draw notches along the lace in different colours with a fabric pen so that your child knows where to fold the lace for the right sized ‘ears’ or loops.
- Avoid left, right instructions: use the colour names of the laces if you are using two different coloured laces or say… pick up the lace with the hand you use for writing.
- Practise with lots of alternatives to laces if they are finding laces difficult to manage: wikki stix, wire-edge ribbon, pipe-cleaners etc.
- I have always found that it helps to reinforce the learning of each stage if I get the child to act as a teacher and teach me the stage they have just learned, or they can teach it to teddy or a sibling, it gives them such a confidence booster too.
- The Wood Lacing shoe is a great practice tool, it
has cheery bright colours and stiffer laces than the ones typically found on shoes. Practice on the model before moving to your child’s real shoe.
- Prepare your child mentally for the task beforehand – it is a challenging activity that they won’t master in the first few tries. Practice several times a week to reduce frustration and improve success.
- Your child does need to be able to master the pincer grip and have reasonably good finger dexterity to be able to tie their shoe laces effectively and so plenty of pencil grip work (see our other blog on this) would really help.
- Now this video I like – it makes it look so easy using the loop method and would help if your child is struggling with sequencing difficulties:
- Your child will always look for the easier route. Untie your child’s shoelaces every night to make sure they can’t just push their foot into the shoe that’s still tied. The daily practise of tying helps them to learn more quickly.
- Some therapists use a technique called backward chaining which can be really helpful. You teach the last step first – for shoe tying you would first teach how to pull a bow tight. Once the child masters this step you work your way backwards through the steps of shoe tying, until all the steps have been introduced. Backward chaining is rewarding for children, as they always end with the finished result!
- We saved learning to tie shoelaces until the long summer holiday when there were no time constraints and every morning whilst fresh and willing, we would work on a stage of lacing, photograph it and stick it up on the wall for visual reinforcement. We’d use a wall chart to show progress and earn rewards and by the end of the 8 weeks the skill was in place. Not the speediest, but he could do it.
- Moving to senior school means getting changed even faster for sport,
switching to an elastic shoe lace with lace lock for football and rugby boots will help. It’s not giving up, it’s helping your child to keep up with the pace and keeps their stress levels down – the move from Primary to Secondary school is a big step – every little aid helps.
- Incentivise your child before starting your shoe tying programme – have them identify a pair of shoe or trainers that they would really like to wear, this helps them to keep a positive focus throughout the programme.
- Don’t worry even Harry Potter actor Daniel Radcliffe struggled to tie his shoelaces!
- If you have been practising for some time and are having little success it might be advisable to consult an Occupational Therapist who will be able to identify any underlying reasons that may be causing the difficulty.
- If laces remain a problem , use Velcro fastening shoes or purchase some elastic laces.
Good luck, we’d love to hear how you are getting on!