Teaching Kids the Art of Tying Shoes
One Father's Tale of Woe
I have to admit I'm old enough that I don't remember learning to tie my shoes. I also don't remember it being any kind of big ordeal, so when it came time for my kindergarten aged daughter to learn to tie her shoes, I figured it was going to take an afternoon and we'd be done kind of thing. Was I ever wrong!
The ironic thing is that I had found the best way to teach a kid to tie their shoes but didn't even know until it was too late! If you want to know the secret to teaching your kids to tie their shoes quickly and easily, skip down to the end of the story. If you want to know the perfect bad example of how not to teach your kids to tie their shoes... read on!
Why Tie Shoes Now?
We started kindergarten this year. One of the goals for my now 6 year old daughter was to learn to tie shoes by the end of the calendar year. Reverting back to my college days, I of course put it off until the last minute figuring I'd have all of Christmas break to teach her how to tie her shoes.
The Perfect Bad Example, Day 1
You know the next part... 3 days before school starts, Dad gets out the shoes and starts the lesson! It all started so fun and whimsically. I took one of my shoes, she took one of her shoes and we gave it a go. That lasted all of 4 or 5 minutes before she was talking about Barbies and ponies. I wasn't ready to quit yet, so we traded shoes and made it kind of a game. That worked for another 10 minutes before she was walking around with one of my shoes on her foot thinking it was the funniest thing in the world.
She had a good laugh, but I was onto my next strategy. I had her sit in my lap and watch from a 'tyer' point of view. Hopefully she would see what it looked like to tie a shoe from that perspective. Then I took her hands and practiced tying my shoes with her hands. After about 5 or 6 minutes there was a frustrated nervous laugh and I could tell she was shutting down, so we were done for the day. Not bad. I didn't get mad or frustrated. I figured we'd made some progress because she got the big picture, start by crossing the strings and making loops.
We pretty much repeated day 1 but I added a couple of games to make it fun. Only they turned into games with shoes and not really learning exercises. This is where I think I made my first mistake. I told her no dessert if she couldn't make a knot in her shoes. I wished I'd have chosen my words more carefully. After a bit of complaining and whining, she went away and made some sort of knot in her shoe. I gave it to her and figured we were still making progress but tomorrow would be the day!
Today is going to be the day since tomorrow they were going back to school! So we started the same way. Me trying to show her and her getting distracted or losing interest after 5 minutes or so. It was truly short attention span theatre but we still were not getting the shoes tied.
Now instead of threats I figured I'd use a little child psychology. We talked about how important it was to be able to tie shoes on your own. We talked about who in her class already knew how to tie shoes and who did not. Turns out there were only 4 other kids who could not tie their shoes. So I pounce! Peer pressure! What it would be like to be the only one who couldn't tie her shoes. After she thought about it she was pretty confident that a couple of the hyperactive boys in her class were never going to learn how to tie their shoes. No worries there.
Drats! Outsmarted by a 6 year old. This duel of wits was not over. Next I tried the reason with her about the merits of being able to tie her shoes so when she is playing in the playground she can tie them herself or how we could surprise Mom when she gets home from shopping. Nada Nil Nothing. Didn't care.
One Last Try
Feeling defeated, I went to where I always go for inspiration and new ideas. Hello Google! I found a ton of sites with videos of kids tying their shoes, little stories, rhymes and songs. I tried the bunny through the hole, the loop swoop and through. I even learned another way to make a knot. Use two loops and cross them! Yeah. I came out and told my little 6 year old rebel that I found a new and fun way to tie a knot. We tried, we failed. We sang songs, we told stories. Still we failed.
After a couple of hours on and off trying to tie shoes, we both were losing patience. Fortunately there were football games on that day and I was perfectly happy to watch and wait for timeouts or half time. As the day progressed, we did not. It was getting late. She had a very short attention span and I would not let her go. She was not pay attention and I was not going to let off.
Georgie Porgie Pudding Pie...
Well I did not kiss my daughter but I made her cry. You can tell when a kid is starting to get a little afraid or nervous because they withdraw a little and avert their eyes. I saw this and still made one final attempt to talk her into paying attention. Bad Daddy! I pushed too far.
She had that look like she wanted to cry but wouldn't. The slightly bitten lip. Man did I feel bad. I guess it was more about me not having the only kid in class who could not tie her shoe.
Well, I got up, picked up the shoes and put them in the closet and asked her if we could talk. I sat her on my lap. She was still a little upset and fighting back the tears so I asked her if she thought I was being mean. She sheepishly shook her head yes. There's nothing worse than feeling like a mean old bully to a 6 year old. I apologized and agreed with her that I was being mean. I told her I was frustrated because I knew she could do it and that she did not seem like she was paying attention. I told her it was no excuse and I was wrong.
Then we talked about how sometimes grown-ups forget what it is like to be little kids. We talked about how it is OK when we are learning something new to tell dad that you need a rest or a break. She learned that lesson pretty well and got her confidence back quickly because when mom came home she let mom know that daddy was being mean by making her tie her shoes all day!
A funny thing happened next. She picked up the shoe that I had put away and started to try to tie her shoe. When I came over to 'help', she told me to go away. She said she would do it herself and sure enough in about 5 minutes, she did it! High 5's and big hugs were exchanged. We told mom and her older sissy. More hugs and high 5's.
We tried putting the shoe on her foot and having her tie it. It took a couple of minutes but she figured it out. Whew! I was wiped out. She went back to playing with her dolls and playing house, happy in the knowledge that she could now tie her shoes.
Now for the secret. When I went back to the computer to close down my system. I was closing down a number of browser windows and I came across one that I had opened but over looked. It was a demonstration of a product that helped kids tie shoes. It was brilliant! I sat there and watched the video 3 or 4 times kicking myself for not seeing this earlier!
The product is called Loopeez and it is such a great idea. It works for really young kids or older people who may have trouble with arthritis. In fact right there and then I sent an email to the person who invented this briliant product and told her what a great idea she had. It was too late for me but hopefully not for others.
Big Life Lesson
If you are going to try to teach your kids to tie their shoes, do two things;
- Don't do anything I did
- Buy some Loopeez
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