Gaining Independence: Shoes!

Raise your hand if your child comes home with their shoes on the wrong feet.  We see this everyday in the classroom, and we cherish it! This is a piece to gaining independence and building self help skills.  Our classroom environment supports a child’s understanding and development by helping them accomplish tasks on their own. Learning to put shoes on independently can take a few weeks or much longer, but by allowing them the time, space and practice, they will master this skill.  This skill can come with many ups and downs (aka meltdowns and possible shoe throwing) but the process builds confidence, empowers them, and provides a sense of accomplishment (yes, even if they are on the wrong feet in the end)

Let’s relish in their attempts!  We empower the children to try again, to take risks and become problem solvers thus allowing for learning the whole process not just the outcome.   Feeling the difference on their own feet is essential to the learning process. We could tell them each time that their shoes are on the wrong feet, we could put them on the floor correctly for them to put on, but by doing this we take away the essential learning that happens when they notice the difference.  Big picture the goal is for them to not only be able to independently put them on, but know the why and how to put them on. Starting with learning which foot is which.

In learning to put their shoes on, we want to model the act without doing it for them.  Show them what the steps are and then give them time to try (lots of time and lots of “trys”).  We change shoes often in the classroom, providing many opportunities for mastery of this. We also know that children often engage with us differently then at home.  A benefit to having your child in our program is we can start this process, and work with them at school and then pass along the steps to try at home. Frustration levels at school are often different then at home.  

  1. The first step is not doing it for them.  We step back, and assist without doing by asking, “Let me see you try.”  We want to observe where they are in the process, what are they trying to do, how are they doing it.  By asking them to show us, we can facilitate their process, offer suggestions, and guide them to success without doing it for them.  

  2. We show them the steps.  Break it down for them into manageable steps.  Open the velcro, lift the tongue, push and wiggle your foot in etc...  When they get frustrated, we give them a moment to calm down. When they do it successfully, we cheer and go over what worked.  Sometimes children need to sit for this and sometimes they need to stand.

  3. It’s ok to leave them on the wrong feet. When we see this happen our first question is, “do your shoes feel ok?”  And if they say yes, we say “ok” If they say no, then we guide them to the next step, “try switching them and see if they feel differently”

How can you set them up for success?

1. Velcro is amazing and there is a reason it is on most shoes for children ages 3-5.  It is simple and many children can navigate it on their own. When you buy shoes look for simple.  As they master simple, move up to the next level. Shoes with laces should be introduced when your child has developed the fine motor, stamina, and resiliency to tackle learning to tie their shoes (usually around age 5-6, but not all children are ready at this age)

2. Follow the steps above, just like the classroom.  

Next time you see your little one with their shoes on the wrong feet enjoy the moment- they did it themselves!

Amy McClements