There are special milestones in children’s lives that mark their awakening independence. As parents we imagine those moments when our children take their first steps, use The Potty for the first time, tie their shoes, ride a bike or drive a car.

We see ourselves beaming with pride as we bask in our child’s brilliance and congratulate ourselves on our amazing parenting skills. Dear friends…WAKE UP!

We do not live in a Hallmark commercial. There will be many tears of frustration shed before you reach those tears of glory.

One of the greatest frustrations my husband and I ever experienced was our complete and utter failure at teaching my stepson to Tie his shoes! My stepson, Sage, was about to start kindergarten so we figured it was time for him to learn. My brave husband volunteered to go first.

He sat down with Sage and showed him how the rabbit runs around the tree and into the hole. And then he showed him again, and again, and again, and again. As I stood by watching my husband’s good intentions shatter into a million pieces I thought, “Here is my moment. PEDIATRICIAN STEPMOM! I have dedicated my life to patiently working with children! I was born for this moment.”

Ten minutes later with his eyes brimming with tears, Sage whispered “Sand, I don’t see the rabbit…what rabbit?????”

After years of reflection, and talking with the amazing moms in my practice, I have figured out where we went wrong. With the help of hundreds of mommies and daddies who have “been there, done that” I have compiled the following handy hints.

Don’t let your child be a victim of Velcro.

Velcro is AMAZING…until it isn’t. Velcro turned into our crutch. Many daycares and Pre-K programs will actually request your child wear Velcro shoes. I understand why. I am sure it is difficult to get through a productive day with 10 to 20 little voices saying, “Can you tie my shoes?” The problem is children learn by mimicking behaviors. They need to see someone tying shoes so they can start to copy the motions. If your child has to wear Velcro to school, try to have 1 pair of shoes with laces so they can watch you do the motions

Don’t wait to teach your child.

The reality is most children do not have the developed fine motor skills to tie shoes until they are in kindergarten. The average girl masters shoe lace tying at age 6 and boys a year later. But you can start the learning process as early as 4 or 5. Start Big. One of my moms suggested this method. Have your child sit on the floor legs out stretched in front of them and have them practicing tying a jump rope around their legs. They can see the motions involved in tying on a scale they can understand.

There are also plenty of toys like the Wooden Lace Sneaker that are super-sized versions of shoes. I also like Dress Me Dolls where your child can learn buttons and zippers. Just remember to buy age appropriate toys. You can make a DIY cardboard shoe tie board with laces. Follow this link for step by step instructions

Little Fingers need Fat Laces.

This is a big one. Little fingers cannot grasp small round laces. Switch your childʼs shoe laces to big fat laces. Some companies even make multicolored laces to help your child better visualize how to cross the laces.

Time and Patience are the Key to Success.

Our decision to teach my stepson on the spur of the moment on a busy soccer Saturday resulted in an epic fail. You need to have the time to try different methods and then take frequent breaks. It is Ok if they do not master this on the first day, first week, first month.
They need to just keep practicing. Thank God my stepsonʼs mom has the patience of a saint! She gets full credit for talking Sage down from a “rabbit around the tree” induced frenzy.

There is more than one way to tie that shoe!

Kids are magical thinkers. So using a story or fun visuals can really help. There are numerous videos showing different ways to tie shoes on the internet. Our good friends in the Public Relations department at Cook “Children’s filmed this video to help your child visualize one method:

Some of my parents have also recommended the following videos.:

Easy shoe tying
Magic Molly

Let your kiddos watch these videos and pick which is easiest for them. Then, they can watch them as many times as they need to mimic the motions.

So, dear parents you are prepared. Remember Patience! Practice! and most of all DO NOT PANIC!

Thanks to all the Moms and Dads who helped us create this list of helpful hints. If you have any tips please share with us.

Dr. Peak

Sandra Peak, M.D.,  joined Cook Childrens Physician Network in Lewisville in 2004. Dr. Peak enjoys gardening, yoga, and boating and in her spare time can be found at the lake with her husband Jay, stepson Sage and the world’s most amazing Lab, Sugar Mae.