How To Teach Your Students to Tie Their Shoes

How To Teach Your Students to Tie Their Shoes

When I first started teaching Elementary PE I had no idea how much time I'd be spending tying shoes. I quickly realized that I needed to do something besides just tie all my students sneakers all day or I'd lose my mind. Lots of teachers say "that's the parents job", but unfortunately the problem is still ours to deal with. I stress the importance of safety in my class and it's impossible to be safe, when running around with untied laces. So whether or not it's my "job" or not to to teach shoe tying, it's my responsibility to keep students safe so that means either I tie my students shoes, or they do...and it's no going to be me (kids shoelaces are nasty) .

So how do we teach a class of students to tie their own shoes when it's hard enough to teach just 1 child to tie their shoes? Great question!

1) Games! As a PE teacher I pride myself in coming up with ways to make learning fun by making games of everything. Here's a couple game ideas I've used, but feel free to modify any activity you already do.

  • Relay Races - Place 2 untied shoes inside a hula-hoop. Have a helper (a student or aid/older student helper) stand at each hula-hoop in case a student needs/wants help. Form relay lines and have 2 students from each line run to the shoes, tie them both then run back and slap 5 of the next 2 people in line. Each student can ask for help from the helper or their relay partner. The students can only run back once both shoes are tied, then untied again. It's okay for one student to tie both as long as both tried. Students confirm with the helper that they accomplished the goal before running back to line together and giving the next 2 people high-fives!

  • Try Em All - This is a game where hula-hoops are placed all over the gym or field (try to have enough where there are always a couple hulas free). Each hula-hoop will have different pieces of equipment in them like jump ropes, skip-its, basketballs, footballs, frisbees, etc as well as one hula-hoop with two untied shoes. Either have yourself or an aid/helper stay at the sneaker hula and help the two students learn to tie their shoes. It's helpful to have simple, large printed directions or possibly a poster with pictures. I play music while it's time to use the equipment and when the music turns off, students must return the equipment to the hula they took it from and sit next to that hula quietly waiting for the music to turn on again where they will then go to a new hula station. I often reward pairs of students that are ready first to get first choice for the next round. Students must stay with their partner and may not repeat a station until they've been to all of them. Great game to work on familiarizing students with lots of equipment.

  • The Pyramid Battle - This is an amazingly versatile game that's great for large classes (I played this regularly for classes of 60+ students). I like to use dice in the hula-hoops and do 1 dice counting for K, two dice addition for grades 1 and 2 and multiplication for grades 3+. Sometimes I'd also do Rocks,Paper,Scissors if we're working on how to solve disputes. After a player loses and has to "take a lap" they can choose the "challenge" instead and have a section with sneakers where they go tie and untie a pair of sneakers. I like to stay at this section and help those who need it.

  • Modify Any Game! - These are just a couple examples of using creativity to modify games so that teaching shoe-tying is more fun for you and your students but feel free to modify any game you like to include working on learning shoe tying!

2) Group Lesson

I try to keep group shoe tying lessons short (no more than 10 minutes). Make sure to have extra sneakers in case kids don't have laces on their shoes. Record a video or find a youtube tutorial to play for the kids if you can and have it play on a loop, while you go around and help out students. You can start by showing everyone first yourself if you don't have access to a video(I Do It, We Do It, You Do It). Students have the goal of tying their shoes by themselves and untying them 5 times. Once they can do that, they raise their hand to show you they can do it themselves. If they successfully tie their shoes they receive a sticker that allows them to be a helper. Helpers go around to students still working on tying their shoes and also are allowed go to a student who's hands are raised and see if they are able to tie their shoes and become a helper too. Great helpers and hard workers are rewarded however you like to reward students in your classes (I let them pick a game we'll play next class). This helps foster the vibe of helping others in class. It always helps to have a really fun game lined up for after.

 3) One at A time - During any game I like to pull kids aside one-on-one and have them show me they can tie a shoe. I like to use my oversized old basketball sneakers since the kids find it more fun. If they can, I mark them down as being able to and I ask them if they'd be willing to help other kids tie their shoes during class (they usually say YES!). This way I get one-on-one time for instructions, they don't miss much game-time and I can keep track of who still needs some help.


4) Training Ties - Well of course I have to mention what I invented to solve this problem! I invented Training Ties because I had so many students who couldn't tie their shoes and I wanted to make sure my classes were safe and I also didn't want to take too much time away from my curriculum to have my students learn shoe-tying. I tried every shoe-tying method, song, video, technique that there is and nothing made teaching classes to tie their shoes easier than Training Ties. They not only helped with my larger classes, they also helped with my APE classes where I had students with disabilities, who were previously thought to not be able to tie their shoes, learn in under 10 minutes! One way to teach with Training Ties is to give a pair to one or a couple students and once they feel comfortable with tying their own shoes, they can pay-it-forward and gift it to another student who wants to learn.

Another way, is if each student has a pair then the entire class can learn at the same time! The added benefit to having students use Training Ties, is that they also KEEP laces tied the whole day. Most of us know when students are just learning to tie their shoes, they often don't tie them very tight and they can easily come untied and it becomes frustrating for the child. Training Ties keep laces tied so they won't come undone while they're playing.

I hope these tips have helped! If you want more in-depth tips about how teach shoe tying (how to position the shoes, what kind of laces to use, etc.. We also have a free tutorial for teaching shoe tying available here.

***If you're a teacher and you're interested in purchasing Training Ties for your classes, please email me directly We have discounts available for educators and always free shipping.

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