What approach can you use to teach a child to tie their shoe laces? What approaches are known, and how long should it take?

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    Before you teach the kid, make sure you're clear on what knot you want to teach. The most commonly used knot for this purpose is a slipped square knot. You want to make sure not to teach the kid the slipped granny instead. This site has a nice explanation: animatedknots.com/square-knot There's a brief animation at the top, and if you scroll down there is a longer video that contrasts it with the granny. The "bunny ears" are a separate thing that make the knot easier to untie. This is what makes it "slipped."
    – user9075
    Dec 27, 2019 at 0:10
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    Something that seemed to help my kid a lot is that I gave the shoelaces of one of my old shoes, which were pretty long. I could tell that it was difficult for him to make the loops whit his own shoelaces (he didn't have enough lace), so I decided to give him plenty of "room" and that helped him to figure out the movements to bend, twist and manipulate the laces. I think that he also saw the lace as something to play with and experiment, as opposed to a new task that he could not master (the learning part was "reframed" a little bit).
    – Diego
    Dec 27, 2019 at 3:58
  • an autistic child can take a very long time to learn this, be patient. Teach one stage at a time and perform the as-yet un-taught stages yourself. Jan 2, 2020 at 13:16

3 Answers 3


There is more than one way to do it. The two approaches below work for both children and adults. It takes about a hundred or so tries to fully master each approach, depending on the age and dexterity of the child. It is easier to practice with the shoe off and in front of you, as shown in the videos.

  1. Terry Moore: How to tie your shoes | TED Talk: https://www.ted.com/talks/terry_moore_how_to_tie_your_shoes

Terry Moore found out he'd been tying his shoes the wrong way his whole life. In the spirit of TED, he takes the stage to share a better way.

NOTE: The above video shows how to tie the doubly slipped reef knot, instead of the less secure granny knot (also see below).

  1. An Even Better Way to Tie Your Shoe Lace | Hanna Michaelis | TEDxCoeurdalene: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rqXZHA46wTU

In this talk by teenager Hanna Michaelis (and featuring her father Mark Michaelis as her mostly capable assistant), Hanna will describe a much faster way to tie your shoes.


Shoelace knot - Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shoelace_knot

Shoelace knot

The shoelace knot is a doubly slipped reef knot [...]. [...] The loops are sometimes referred to as "bunny ears", especially when the knot is taught to children. [...]

There are several ways to tie a shoelace knot; each starts with the tying of a half hitch, and requires attention or some habitual mechanism for arriving at a knot that is an elaboration of the reef (or square) knot rather than of the granny (or lubber's) knot. If the bow is horizontal across the opening the bow is correctly and securely tied, but if vertical is likely to slip. One approach is to start by taking, in each hand, the end of the lace that emerges from the uppermost eyelet on that hand's side of the shoe; then passing the dominant hand's end under the other end, from front toward back, and dropping each lace on the opposite side from where it started; and in the finishing step again grasping the lace on each side with the hand on that side (perhaps taking time to note that because each end crossed over the shoe before, the laces have switched hands - or vice versa, the hands have switched laces) and again passing the dominant hand's end under the other end, from front toward back. [...]

Tying two consecutive right-over-left half knots (or two consecutive left-over-right half knots) produces, instead of a square-knot-like bow-knot, a much less secure version corresponding to the granny knot. This version will also produce asymmetrical slips; one pointing down, the other up.

(emphasis added)

  • 2
    The Terry Moore talk is awful. He never makes it clear what distinction he's trying to make (between a slipped square knot and a slipped granny), nor does he explain how he knows that, supposedly, everyone in his audience is doing it wrong (which is almost certainly not true).
    – user9075
    Dec 27, 2019 at 0:01
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    I suggest to not even start with a shoe but with a thicker rope and something appropriate to tie it around. These days there could be a christmas present box or something :-) Such a rope can be untied easily even if tied with force and will provide more fun to try. If the child understands why the first step of the knot is not enough to hold but the second step is, pass over to a shoe.
    – puck
    Dec 28, 2019 at 9:00

I'm using this technique here which involves coloring coding a white lace to match up the areas and using a knot as a guide. Hope this helps,



My daughter isn't quite there so I have not tried this book, but I recently saw it and saved it for when we get there. It is a step by step illustrated book with left/right color coded laces built into the book. https://www.montessoriservices.com/red-lace-yellow-lace

No matter what, giving them somewhere to practice tying using a dressing board or similar item will make it easier for them to learn, as they can practice each step and movement more easily on a flat surface on a table rather than hunched over their shoes. Make it an activity to do alongside coloring or other things they like doing!

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