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June 02, 2021

Montessori Elementary Activity: Tying Your Shoes

At nearly 7-years-old, there aren't a ton of Montessori activities on our shelves anymore for Nora. She has been back in a Montessori classroom for a few months, and does most of her academic learning there. At home, mostly open ended toys and art supplies fill our shelves. But, recently, I added a more traditional Montessori activity to her shelves - a bow tying frame - because it's time for Nora to learn to tie her shoes! 

Montessori 7-year-old sits at chowkie tying a bow frame in preparation for learning how to tie shoes.

Like any Montessori practical life activity, I want to keep a few things in mind as we are introducing a new work. One, I want to isolate the concept as much as possible as I first introduce it. I want to make sure the tying is the only thing we are focusing on as much as possible. Two, I want to make this as low stress as possible, I don't want to pressure, shame or force my child into tying shoes before they are ready. I personally let them give me some indication that they are interested in tie shoes before I actually go out and buy them. 

For both Nora and Henry, this has happened in first grade when they suddenly want more "grown up" looking shoes. Without being able to tie, their options start getting more limited the older they get. But, follow your child, it could happen younger (5+ is what I've seen) or older. 

Teach Your Child How to Tie a Shoe the Montessori Way

In order to meet to help Nora learn to tie and keep it simple we brought out our bow tying frame. Ours I bought used, but there are options available if you want to buy one. 

If you don't have a tie frame, don't feel like you need to go out and buy one. Honestly, you could take a small piece of card board punch a couple holes on each side and tie some shoe laces to it. I actually find the tie frame a bit overwhelming for kids and tend to remove some of the laces to make it a little easier to accomplish. You can also skip a tie frame all together and just use a shoe. You can buy toy shoes just for the purpose, but I think any old shoe will do. Just try to use laces of two different colors to make it easier to see. 

To present, I use the power of story telling since she is in the second plane of development. I use a story of a bunny (because that's what I was told and remember it 30+ years later.) The story is basically of a bunny in the woods looking for food, but finding danger. The bunny must run around the tree and into its hole to be safe again. 

A series of images of girl using Montessori bow frame with increasing joy.

Story telling deserves it's own post, but it's an effective way to capture an older child's attention and help them remember the purpose of what you're doing. I tell the story as I very slowly and dramatically tie my shoes. Next, I repeat the same motions (very very slowly) on the tying frame. I do it over and over again, until the entire frame is done. Then, I slowly untie the bows and hand the frame over. 

The frame sits on their shelves to practice whenever they feel called. Which for Nora has been really often. For a week solid, she was constantly tying and untying. I support as necessary and the first few days were not without some frustration. But, for my kids, at 6-years-old they have picked it up fairly quickly. Within the week, Nora was ready for a shoe. 

Once I've noticed some success (doesn't have to be perfect) then I introduce actual shoes. The tying frame is one thing, but a wiggly shoe is another. But, since tying is not new at this point, it's just enough of a step up that it works. 

A child ties strings of two colors in preparation for learning how to tie shoes the Montessori way.

For Nora, it took about two weeks to master this work and starting tying shoes on her own. There was no stress, no tears, nothing. She's so super proud of herself and just one step closer to total independence. I seriously cannot believe she's going to be 7 so soon! Her interest has also sparked an interest in Gus (4.5) so I'm interested to see if he will pick it up earlier than the others. Time will tell!

How do you teach your children to tie their shoelaces? Have you ever used a bow frame?

This easy Montessori activity for elementary kids helps them learn to independently tie their shoelaces without frustration, tears, or fighting.

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