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Time to Tie His Own Shoes

Although plenty of kids' shoes have Velcro closures, tying laces is still a big-kid accomplishment worth teaching. Many kids learn by age 6, though some aren't comfortable with it until they're closer to 8, says Julie Lumeng, M.D., a developmental-behavioral pediatrician at the University of Michigan, in Ann Arbor. To help:

1. Watch for readiness. If your child's pretty adept with scissors, can handle small buttons easily, and draws simple stick figures, he's probably ready for a lesson in laces.

2. Break it down. Demonstrate the whole process once, then separate the steps for him (the usual way of tying is fine, even for beginners; if he struggles, you can instead teach him to make two loops and then knot those). He can practice each step until he's comfortable. Sometimes it's easier to learn with the shoe off his foot, or on a bigger shoe, like Dad's.

3. Keep practicing. Shoe tying is like riding a bike, not a skill that's hardwired once he learns it, like walking, says Dr. Lumeng.

4. Don't force it. If he has a hard time, put the laces aside for a month or so. If he still struggles by age 8 and has difficulty with other fine motor skills, such as holding a pencil, talk to his pediatrician.