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The lost art of shoe-tying

Jen Klein is a New England-based technical writer and mother of three. When she isn't asking her kids to stop bickering, "caramelizing" the dinner or actively ignoring the dust bunnies under the couch, she enjoys knitting, gardening, pho...

Too much Velcro!

As I bent down to tie my daughter's shoe the other day, I realized it was about time for her to learn how to tie her shoes herself. But then I also realized I've handicapped her a bit in learning and practicing: she has exactly one pair of tie shoes, the rest have Velcro or elastic or some other variation on a closure. As she wears these sneakers maybe once a week, there's not much impetus.

Pink velcro sneakers

I haven't taught a child to tie shoes in a long time. My sons learned, of course; I remember it taking my older son quite some time to get the hang of it and my younger son taught himself before I thought to teach him. Now my older son only ties his soccer cleats on a regular basis; he keeps his sneakers tied in double knots but loose, so he can just slip his foot right in. My younger son prefers to wear his hiking shoes around and they have an elastic thingy.

Convenient, sure

Kids shoes really have changed over the years, even since my oldest was young. Almost every shoe for kids is non-tie, even many sneakers. Sure, it's convenient, but what's so wrong with shoe laces - and promoting some fine manual dexterity? Nothing, I'm sure. It's just that other, supposedly faster methods of shoe closure are more "convenient." And in modern society, speed and convenience seem to count for more than just about anything else.

And you know what? Learning to tie one's shoes was often preceded by literally years of watching your mom dad tie your shoes every day. With all these different closures, we don't even do that now! We had a much stronger visual foundation for shoe tying than our kids do.

A conscious effort

Once, learning to tie one's own shoes was a childhood rite of passage: it meant you were a big kid, and it came with a lot of pride. With fewer and fewer tie shoes out there, the ability to tie one's shoes is still important, but it's not quite the same milestone.

I think teaching one's child to tie his or her shoe by themselves takes a more concerted effort now. You really have to decide you're only going to get and/or use tie shoes for your kids for while, and be very deliberate in describing what you are doing - not to mention building a few extra minutes into the morning routine or whenever you go out for this effort. Less comes by something like osmosis. Eventually, I'm sure my daughter will get the hang of tying her shoes. Even if it takes a little longer than it used to for kids, it's still a real rite of passage in my book.

Tell us: What age did you teach your child to tie their own shoes? Comment below!

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