Tied Up

If this is your first year as a teacher and you are over the moon about beginning in a junior primary classroom then you need to read this!

It's a discussion that no-one had with me in my pre-service days but boy did I learn fast about shoelaces and the yucky, icky truth! If you have food in your hands - please eat first and then read. Maybe wait a little bit and then read.

I trained for upper primary but spent the first few years of teaching with junior primary. I really enjoyed the age but admittedly this age group does have some habits that tend to gross you out. Today I am going to write about one.


As a mum, I am thankful my kids have Velcro on their shoes - so much easier at such a young age. As a kid, though I couldn't wait to get my first pair of "big girl shoes" - yes, they had laces. Now as a general rule, girls keep their shoelaces clean (unless they've been outside and the laces come undone and then they've walked through puddles and mud and sand...you get the idea) boys, however, are a different matter altogether.

Now it isn't all boys but most suffer from the same problem. You see it comes down to the toilet. If you've never been inside a girl vs boy bathroom/toilet since you were in school then I say you need to familiarise yourself on a Friday after school when the kids are all gone. You will notice a difference. The girls' bathroom will probably be a bit muddy on the floor, usually paper where it shouldn't be and bubbles in the trough. That's the worst I've ever seen. Now the boys' bathroom. You will know it before you get there because of the smell! If your school has a urinal that flushes regularly then it might help a bit but I've worked in schools where it only flushes a handful of times a day (and in an Aussie heatwave...you get the smell!) The floor will be a mixture of water, mud, and wee - and here is the difference between girls and boys.

Close your eyes and imagine kids coming up to you to say: "Can you tie my shoelaces?" *shudder*

So what? 
Well each time the boys go to the bathroom and their shoelaces are undone what do you think they are trailing in? Close your eyes and imagine kids coming up to you to say: "Can you tie my shoelaces?" *shudder*

It used to be that parents' would teach their children to tie their laces - Mum told me I could only have proper shoes when I could tie the laces myself (which is why I had to wait until grade 1 as it took ages for me to learn - and even then it was the rabbit ears that came to the rescue). Sadly it seems more and more kids are not being taught and it falls to the teacher to either teach it or spend half of every yard duty tying up shoelaces.

First important note - make sure you have a hand sanitiser on you for yard duty. It is a quick way to refresh your hands and feel clean again. If liquid hand sanitisers are not allowed due to OHS&W then I recommend antibacterial wipes. You can usually buy them in small packets which fit well in your pocket and the wipes don't tend to leave your hands feeling 'wet'.

Now to combat the shoelaces

Learning to tie laces takes time and patience which is why I made it an activity for my students who had finished their work early. Here's how to set up a mini-life skills station.

What will you need?

* at least 2 pairs of shoes (I got mine for A$2 a pair when the season clearance sales started)
* enough pairs of shoes for the shoes you have
* craft stuffing (I like Hobby Fill)
* cotton to sew and a needle


Make sure the socks are the same size as your shoes otherwise they won't fit properly. Stuff you socks with stuffing (don't stuff to the point it is unmovable - it should be spongy to touch). Make sure you get the heel stuff so that your sock looks like it has a foot in it. Sew up the top of the sock - either by hand with a needle and thread or on a sewing machine.

Put it together

Untie the laces on the shoes and insert the stuffed sock. You may need to wiggle it a bit to get it to fit in properly. Then tie up the laces and adjust the sock as necessary.


There are several methods to tie your shoelaces ("rabbit ears" and "around the tree" are two that spring to mind). I decided to go with a pre-made instruction sheet that is available from Teaching in the Tongass on TPT. Jen's pack includes two methods for tying shoelaces and I strongly recommend having copies of both ready for your students.

I trimmed it back a little and mounted it on red cardboard before laminating; not necessary but I thought it added a bit more appeal. The other set I mounted on blue cardboard to differentiate it.

Find a spot

I just stored the shoes and instructions together on a shelf at the back of the room near our class library. It was a really great quiet activity for early finishers and activity rotations.


Once students should show me (without looking at the instruction sheet) that they could tie their shoes I gave them a certificate and a name tag that you can pop a mini-safety pin on and have them wear.

Special thanks to Jen Lium from Teaching in the Tongass
 for allowing me to use photographs of her resource in this post.

Note: This post was updated on the 19th October 2019 with new resources

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