How to Tie Your Shoelaces

How to Tie Your Shoelaces

! Stop the press !

Since writing this post I have been given an alternative method of tying your shoelaces – with two different demonstrations, both of which appear easier to teach, easier to learn and more effective. This leaves me slightly conflicted, because I’m rather proud of my lovely diagrams. So I’m going to leave the rest of this post in place, despite the fact that the two videos below effectively render it redundant. Oh well.

Original post:

I just dug this out again, for my 9-yr-old. Yeah, he can’t quite tie a shoelace yet. These days you can easily get away with it, because apart from walking boots, most kids’ shoes don’t have laces.

I enjoy teaching, but there is this thing called “Expert-Induced Amnesia“. It’s about that skill you’ve had for so long, you don’t know how you do it. When you try to teach it to other people, you struggle. As a parent, I’ve been starkly reminded of this in two examples: One is riding a bike, and the other is tying your shoelaces.

Teaching a child to ride a bike is extra hard, because you know at some point you’ll have to let go and hope for the best. And have the band-aid ready. But the shoelaces thing… maybe it’s just me, but wow, I found it hard to explain what I do and how I do it. My fingers just know. I don’t think about it. It’s muscle memory. And as soon as I try to slow it down and explain it, I can’t even remember what to do. I can only do it quickly, in a blur.

Also, learners need to practice repeatedly to get it right. Explaining this repeatedly can get wearing, particularly as most of the teaching opportunities come when you’re in a hurry to get out the door, and really you just want the shoes on the feet, with minimal fuss.

One of the hardest parts of teaching is patience. Resisting the urge to do it for them. “Oh, I’ll show you,” you say. You think you’re being helpful, but really you’re just being impatient. They need to do it for themselves.

That was a ridiculously long preamble.

Tl;dr: I forced myself to sit down and work it out, step by step. Then I drew diagrams and stuck them to a piece of card with laces attached. Then I gave it to my eldest son and left him to practice on his own. And now it’s my youngest son’s turn, so I dug the card out again (which is why it looks all tatty and old).

And here it is. Apologies for the tattiness. But just in case you’re teaching somebody to tie shoelaces, or learning to do it yourself… here are some diagrams that just might help.

(Also, apologies if you thought this was going to culminate in some fantastic metaphor, where the laces represent the meaning of life, the universe and everything. It really is a post about shoelaces.)

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