January 22, 2018

Occupational Therapy: Shoe Laces👟

David Sifry

Goodbye Velcro shoes, hello laces! As children enter elementary school, they become more independent with self-dressing. Children begin to learn how to tie their own shoes between 5-7 years old. Tying shoe laces requires strong fine motor skills including finger isolation, bilateral hand coordination, visual perceptual skills, hand-eye coordination and hand strength.

Learning to tie shoelaces for the first time can be very rewarding. It may also be frustrating for kids if they become overwhelmed. For a positive shoe tying experience, follow these tips:

  • Let your child pick out their first pair of tennis shoes. The new pair of shoes will help motivate your child!
  • Do not practice shoe tying when you are in a rush. Try practicing after school instead of during the morning rush.
  • Remain calm and relaxed while practicing. Model the process on your own shoes.
  • Practice one step at a time. Do not move on until your child has conquered the current step.
  • Be consistent with word choice: Loops, bunny ears, twist, knot, etc.
  • Begin with the shoe off until the skill is mastered. Laces become tight when on the foot, making tying more difficult.
  • Avoid using the words ‘left’ and ‘right’ unless your child is proficient at distinguishing the two. Instead put a sticker or sharpie dot on the child’s dominant side, and refer to the ‘sticker’ or ‘non-sticker’ side. Using two different colored laces is a great alternative as well.
  • Print off a visual step-by-step picture and hang it near the shoes.

As with everything, practice makes perfect. Continue to encourage your child to keep working at tying his/her own shoes. Below are some resources to help ease the process.

YouTube Educational videos:

Introducing shoe lacing without the pressure of a real shoe:

Make your own practice materials:

  • Egg Carton Shoe tying: Punch holes into the tops of an egg carton and string two different color laces through the holes as if you are lacing a shoe. Use the laces to practice tying a shoe.
  • Shoe-tying practice board: Watch this tutorial for an easy and effective way to make a practice shoe board using cardboard and laces!



Henry, Sarah. “Developmental Milestone: Self-Care (Age 5).” BabyCenter, 30 Sept. 2015, www.babycenter.com/0_developmental-milestone-self-care-age-5_66682.bc.

Kiley, Christie. “Clever Ways to Teach Shoe Tying for Kids (Tips & Modifications).” Mama OT, 22 July 2016, mamaot.com/teach-kids-tie-shoes-tips-tricks-modifications/.

“Shoe Tying Methods.” Therapy Fun Zone, Therapy Fun Zone Https://Therapyfunzone.net/Blog/Wp-Content/Uploads/2016/04/Tfz-Logo-Copy.png, 19 July 2014, therapyfunzone.net/blog/shoe-tying-methods/.

“Shoe Tying Tips and Tools for Kids.” The OT Toolbox, 5 Oct. 2015, www.theottoolbox.com/2015/10/shoe-tying-tips-and-tools-for-kids.html.

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