A Shoelace Professor on Tips to Teach a Kid to Tie Shoes
It doesn’t just have to be constant frustration about rabbits going around holes
Teaching kids to tie their shoes can be just as frustrating as teaching them to use a toilet (and if done in a swamp about half as gross). That damn bunny doesn’t want to run around the tree, much less find the hole it left in the first place. Why? Bunnies are dumb and most kids weaning off Velcro still lack manual dexterity. Combine those weak fingers and the anger radiating off a parent who can’t help but do it right and shoe tying becomes a recipe for disaster. Fortunately, there’s good news for pissed off parents. There have been advances in knot technology. It’s time to kill the rabbit.
“The stumbling block for most kids is following a sequence of, ‘do this, do that, do the other, do the next thing,’” explains Ian Fieggen, a knot innovator best known as Professor Shoelace. “If you actually break it down further into the real steps that a kid could follow, creating a loop involves: grab the lace with one hand; use the other hand to grab it sort of in the middle of that lace; fold it in half, and then at the bottom sort of half let go of what you’re holding so that you can grab the bottom part of the other lace with your right hand…” Fieggen trails off. The problem, he explains, is that parents don’t say all that. They just say, “Make a loop.” Then they expect the kid to do it. (Spoiler alert: The kid doesn’t.)
That’s why Fieggen recommends parents try the “Ian Knot,” a creation of his own design that requires a single, lightning fast step (once the starting position is correct). It is an incredibly efficient way to tie shoelaces, with the standard end result. Watching Fieggen tie it himself is pretty astounding.
Fieggen invented the technique after breaking one too many shoe laces on the same side due to unsymmetrical standard tying. After deconstructing the standard shoelace knot he essentially revers-engineered a faster, more symmetrical way to tie shoes. That was the beginning of a shoelace exploration that led him to create a website compiling 18 shoelace knots, including his own, and 52 lacing methods.
“Don’t get too set on teaching a specific way because sometimes a child simply won’t get a specific way you’re trying to teach them,” Fieggen says. “Having a couple of techniques up your sleeve can really help”
The Ian knot is a particularly good choice because parents can learn it with their kids. When parents learn to tie the knot along side kids they can share in the learning and reduce the frustration. Sure, this would be true for any new knot but others are either too complicated for kids or too messy for adult shoes.
The right laces also make the task easier still. “Choose nice, soft, easy to hold shoelaces,” Fieggen recommends soft ones because they’re easier to hold and white ones so parents can make marks where the laces are supposed to be held. White also provides enough contrast that a kid recognizes one lace against the other, though there are also two tone laces that can add additional contrast.
Fieggen compares learning to tie shoes to learning a magic trick. That might be a bit of an overstatement, but there’s something to be said for making the bunny disappear.