Inside Out Emotions Game + Free Printables

This shop featuring my Inside Out emotions game has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #InsideOutEmotions #CollectiveBias

Inside Out Bubbling Emotions Printable and Games

I joke sometimes that I had kids just so I could keep playing with toys and enjoying animated movies without feeling guilty. I’m doing it for my kids is always a great excuse for anything, right? Yes, that is why I ran right out to Walmart to purchase the Inside Out Blu-Ray/DVD combo pack and have Movie Night with Mommy, along with a couple other surprises. Because when the movie is right.there… of course I had to pick it up. And maybe find an Inside Out toy or two to go with it.

Inside Out at Walmart

And yes, as soon as we got home that night, the wee ones begged and pleaded to watch it. Who am I to say no? I love that Inside Out is so much more than just a cute kids’ movie. I’ve used a version of this Inside Out emotions game to keep the wee ones occupied and entertained for years.

Loving our new Inside Out Movie

Whenever we travel and have to wait in lines (picture customs – whether I’m the mean mom or not, no electronics or phones are allowed until after you’ve cleared customs and that can be a long wait), I love playing the Inside Out emotions game with them. When we’re out and about, I don’t need any materials, and it keeps us all giggling so that we don’t notice our line hasn’t moved at all and all the other lines have been speeding along.

All I do is call out an emotion and the wee ones have to show me what it looks like. When they were younger, I kept the Inside Out emotions game fairly simple. Joy, Anger, Fear, Surprise, and the like. Those were all emotions they knew, and we had fun showing what the emotions were and how to express them (long before Mister Man was ever diagnosed with autism). Mister Man was our resident expert on fear.

Fear from August 2008

While Little Miss was the queen of surprise.

Surprise in February 2009

As they got older, the Inside Out emotions game (not that I had a name for it back then, of course) changed a little bit. I used it not just as a way to keep them occupied so they wouldn’t complain of being bored or get restless in a small space but also as a way to use their vocabulary. I’m lucky that they read a ton and so have a pretty decent list of words they know and recognize, but a fun way to expand their vocabulary? I’m all over that.

That’s how we went from joy…

Show me Joy

and sadness…

Show me sadness

to confusion…

Show me confusion

and awestruck…

Show me awestruck

and all sorts of other words that they may not run into every day at school. They understand the idea behind disillusioned. And supercilious. And menacing. And mortified. And so many more fun words that are even more fun to act out. If they don’t know a word I throw out, there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s simply a teaching moment where they can tell me what they think it might mean and I can share how close they got and ensure they understand the correct meaning before they act it out for me.

With the release of Inside Out, I decide to formalize our Inside Out emotions game a little more. That’s where this free printable came in. I created a game you can print out on cardstock and use in two fun and creative ways to experience Inside Out (and all its emotions) at home as well as on the road.

Inside Out Emotions game printable

Because kids have all different areas of knowledge, I created the Inside Out emotions game cards to have different levels of vocabulary to describe the emotions. Each card has ten emotions listed on it. The “easy” green emotions have one card while the more advanced yellow and more challenging red emotions have three cards each for a total of 70 emotions to use when playing. The backer card can be reprinted as many time as you need to create the other side for your emotions cards, and they line up perfectly for once you cut them out.

Inside Out Bubbling Emotions card game

Because the wee ones are using all the words in the Inside Out emotions game, I chose to print my cards all in black and white, but if you’re just learning words or moving to more challenging words, you can print them in color to help delineate which words are at which level, especially if you’re playing the games with children of different ages. This way, everyone has something they can enjoy.

Playing Inside Out Emotions Game – Free Play

We came up with two fun ways to play the Inside Out emotions game. Actually, I came up with one, and after we’d played it with the cards a few times, Little Miss suggested the other game which has become a new favorite in our house. Once you’ve printed your cards and cut them up, place them in a pile in front of Joy and the console so there is a common area.

The game can be played on teams or each person for himself, depending on what works best in your house. When I play with them, I am the master judge, but this is also something kids can easily play on their own while you’re making dinner. Or pop the cards in your purse with a rubber band wrapped around them for on the go fun and inspiration while you’re waiting in the carpool line, at a sporting event, or in a restaurant for the food that takes longer the hungrier everyone is.

One person selects a card and reads the emotion aloud. The rest of the players – or designated person from each team if playing on teams – then has to act out that emotion. The judge determines who came closest to rendering the emotion, and you can choose whatever criteria you want to use, as this is all in good fun.

Choose an emotion bubble card

Whichever person or team the judge selects then gets to keep that Inside Out emotions game card, and play continues with the next person and card until they’re all used. Whichever person or team has the most cards at the end wins and Joy is spread amongst everyone.

Playing Inside Out Emotions Game – Memory Match

Little Miss came up with this genius idea for a second game using the same Inside Out emotions game cards. You will need to print a second set so that each emotion has two corresponding cards. As with any memory game, you can set it up with as many or as few matches as you see fit. We found that 20 cards of 10 emotions worked best for us and our space, but we did do a monster 60 card version with the 30 red emotion cards just for fun. Like a certain board game the wee ones know and love, that took forever to finish!

Inside Out Bubbling Emotions Memory Game setup

Just like the traditional memory match games, the goal is to find the matching emotions. Depondent and Indifferent in the example above are obviously not corresponding emotions, so the player turns the cards over and the next person takes a turn trying to find a match in the rows.

The twist to the Inside Out emotions game memory match is that once you create a match, you have to show that emotion before you can keep the cards. If you aren’t able to show your indifference, you have to turn the cards back over and the other player has a chance to steal the emotion in the next turn!

Playing Inside Out Memory Emotion Match

The winning player is the one with the most matches at the end of the game. And the fun is that it can be played as a solitare game, which Little Miss did before school this morning just because it’s fun or with two or more players. Because there are so many card options you can create – anywhere from just printing out two sheets of one Inside Out emotions game card to printing all seven sets of cards and having a massive 140 card memory match – this can work with three, four, or more players taking turns.

Best of all? The kids don’t realize that they’re learning. It’s more than just the vocabulary. They’re learning how to recognize the emotions on others’ faces and how to express it themselves. I tell the wee ones all the time that it’s fine to feel a certain way, that it’s how you express the emotion that matters. When Mister Man gets frustrated and throws a book (yes, that happened last night, why?), the throwing the book isn’t ok but it’s fine to be frustrated and express it in another way. That alone makes Inside Out a winner as a movie in our house, and playing with the Tomy Inside Out toys along with the Inside Out emotions game I created is just a bonus.

So yeah…we just might be having another Inside Out movie night at our house with the Blu-Ray we picked up again tonight. And later this week. Because when Little Miss turns to me after her swimming lesson and tells me her favorite part of the movie is when she can see the emotions in other people’s heads, I know she’s figuring out how to navigate that tricky minefield of emotions. And yikes the teen years and hormones will be here before I know it!

Would you play the Inside Out emotions game with your family? How do you learn to express your emotions?


Erasing Middle School Fears

This shop sharing strategies on erasing middle school fears has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #EraseStress #CollectiveBias
Making the Middle School Transition Easier and erasing middle school fears with a great strategy

The wee ones start school on Thursday. For the first time in several years, the wee ones won’t go to school together. Instead, Mister Man is going into sixth grade, which has been a little bit scary for him – especially given how so many people make such a big deal about it. Needless to say, we’ve been working on erasing middle school fears (literally) before he starts to help ensure he has a successful middle school career.

Mister Man is on the spectrum, and dealing with his anxieties and frustrations can be a challenge sometimes. Then again, what child doesn’t struggle with them? As he’s gotten older, it’s gotten so much better. We are always clear with him that it’s fine to be frustrated and angry and upset and sad and all the other emotions, but that how he expresses them it what he needs to be aware of.

We’ve come up with several strategies, some of which work better than others. Just reminding him of his tone – simply by saying “Tone,” – often works. But when he starts to be upset by things that shouldn’t be as upsetting as they are, we have a scale we use to ensure we’re reacting at the appropriate level.

A 1, for example, is no big deal at all. It might be that he was walking on the street and the don’t walk signal came on before he got there. A 3 is a bigger deal and a more legitimate problem. He forgot his homework at school or something along those lines. It’s a solvable problem, but there’s definitely an inconvenience factor. A 4? Now that’s the really big deal. That’s the kind of problem where someone stole his bike where you’re legitimately upset and people understand why you’d show it. He reserves a 5 for the really big deals like an alien invasion or a nuclear attack. Fortunately, there haven’t been any legitimate level 5 problems.

When we can see that he’s overreacting, we ask him to rate the problem. When he stops to think about it, he’s generally pretty good about thinking through it logically and categorizing it where it belongs. Not always, but usually. When he says something is a 4 when it’s really a 2? Raising my eyebrows and asking if he really thinks it’s a 4 gets him to rethink it. Once he’s determined the appropriate threat level, we compare his reaction to the scale. “Are you reacting like this is a 2?” It’s amazing to me how often that works, and I love to see that he’s starting to internalize that himself, which is awesome since I can’t – and won’t – be around him 24/7 for the rest of his life.

Erasing Middle School Fears

When thinking about erasing middle school fears, I decided to implement the same type of scale. There are some things that I know he’s worried about, but when you stew over something, it’s so easy to make it bigger than it really is. Turning it into something concrete and then problem solving can really help eliminate the anxiety. I decided that literally erasing middle school fears could make it even more impactful.

And thus I was on the hunt for erasable pens – and not the kind I had growing up that only sorta erased and left a mess behind. The good news is that when we were doing our school supply shopping at Target, I happened upon the FriXion Clicker pen. They’re a gel pen that’s completely erasable, perfect for my “erasing middle school fears” project. They come in both a black 3 pack and a 3 pack of red/blue/black. Since I was planning to use the scale, I went with the multi-color three pack – and voila!

Finding FriXion pens at Target

Once we got home with all our school supplies – so much more specific and expensive than when I was growing up – I used my new FriXion Clicker pens and an extra lined notebook to create the scale for Mister Man to fill in. The red is representative of the level 5 problems, the black the level 3 problems, and blue was the level one items – things we want to think about but won’t cause him to lose sleep.

Creating a middle school anxiety eraser list

Needless to say, Mister Man thought this was a way cool idea and couldn’t wait to write down some of his concerns. Many of them were completely expected. He’s going from class to class in a huge building for the first time this year. He’s going to be walking to school, and he has a locker with a combination lock. The homework load is a big question mark.

Writing down our problems to face them

Once he wrote down a few of his concerns, he and I sat down and talked about them. I can’t fix everything, but problems always have solutions. Even just talking about them and letting Mister Man know that I’m available to help makes a difference. Having that open doorway of communication and a nonjudgmental ear makes a difference.

Some of the problems, we were able to fix. Worried about having a locker for the first time and whether he’ll be able to work it? A quick trip to the middle school before school starts, and we can practice without any stress. Once he saw that he could memorize his combination and get the lock open on the first try most of the time, and he felt a ton better.

Middle school lockers and what if I cannot open it

That’s where erasing middle school fears literally comes in. As we “solved” each problem, he used the FriXion Clicker pen to erase what he’d written, symbolically showing that it is no longer a problem. I’ve found that physically destroying a described problem, whether it’s writing it down and throwing it away or the much more environmentally friendly version of writing it down and erasing it helps clear it from your psyche, truly and irrevocably erasing middle school fears.

Erasing middle school fears literally

We’re keeping the notebook – and the FriXion Clicker pens – to add to and update the list as needed. He loves that he can noodle through problems on his own or ask me for help in solving them. And the feeling of confidence he gains from erasing middle school fears from his notebook is empowering. And I love how these FriXion pens actually erase the whole thing. His middle school locker concern? It is gone gone.

Middle school challenges

And honestly, I thought those FriXion Clicker pens were pretty cool, myself. For the past several years, I’ve written a special needs teacher introduction letter from Mister Man that gives the teacher a little bit of an insight into him. I chose to not do that this year, as he needs to be a bit more independent in middle school. Instead, I created a little teacher gift that he can present to each of his teachers on the first day of school.

It’s a little gift, but it gives him a chance to quickly introduce himself to his teachers beyond what the guidance counselor has shared already. And given the amount of work and prep I know teachers do to get ready for the school year, a welcome to the start of the school year gift is not out of line at all!

I created a cute little printable to explain the gift and give a little heads up. You can download it here, and print it on cardstock to attach it via a string or on regular printer paper like I did and use double sided tape to attach it to a mug. The printable reads: Thank you for being my teacher. I know I’ll make mistakes this year, but with your help I’ll erase those problems and start each class fresh and ready to learn. Some days I’ll need some help to get through class. Together, we’ll have the best year ever. Thank you for all the hard work you do!

Items for a teacher welcome gift

The FriXion Clicker pens were a no brainer for the “erase those problems” portion of the note. I also threw in a little gift card for a local coffee shop, knowing teachers sometimes need a little help getting through class, too. I hand wrote a small explanation on each that clarified the gifts and then placed them inside the mug I purchased for each teacher. The printable note was attached, and it was ready for him to share with each teacher come Friday. I know they’ll love it!

Teacher welcome gift

The FriXion Clicker pen by Pilot is perfect for another reason, too. Pilot has partnered with STOMP Out Bullying, the leading national bullying and cyberbullying prevention organization, to help build awareness and fund educational programs designed to reduce and prevent bullying in schools across the country. Our elementary school has participated in the blue shirt day for years, among other initiatives they support, and I love what the organization does overall.

Pilot has committed to donating at least $125,000 to STOMP Out Bulling between 2015 and 2016. And if annual sales goals are exceeded, they’ll donate additional funds. To me, that’s a great reason to include the FriXion Clicker pen in the teacher gifts –   I’m doing my part to ‘erase’ negative bullying behaviors and ‘rewrite’ positive, productive solutions by helping Pilot reach their sales goals, and I’m happy to do it.


Even better? There’s a Target circular deal from 8/23-8/29/15 for 20% off both the FriXion Clicker pen 3pk Assorted and the FriXion Clicker pen 3pk Black. Perfect for stocking up for teacher gifts, right? Or for just making life a little bit easier in middle school. Because we’re all in this together.

Always in partnership to make middle school easy

I’m erasing middle school fears with the FriXion Clicker pen. How do you make the transition easier?


I Have An Extraordinary Kid – Every Day

My extraordinary kid is extraordinary every day #YourExtraordinaryKid #CGC

I have a pretty awesome kid. Mister Man rocks my world, and he has since Day One. That isn’t to say that I don’t want to strangle him sometimes because he’s a kid. And he’s mine. And he’s bound to drive me batty simply by being who he is, but that doesn’t mean I don’t love and celebrate him whenever I can. He’s pretty cool, and he shows it all the time.

Silly child sliding across the sky ride

As I sit here typing this, he’s in the basement playing with Little Miss. He’s been flummoxed for years as to why she doesn’t like LEGOs, and he’s been frustrated by this, since he wants to be a LEGO Master Brick Builder when he grows up. He’s growing and maturing, and his social skills are improving (take that autism!) to the point that he finally asked Little Miss the right question. “Why don’t you like LEGOs?” and when she answered that she doesn’t like building them because they’re too confusing (an attitude I’m sure she has because he has such facility with them), he figured out to follow up with, “So do you not like playing with them either, or do you just not like building them?”

When she answered that she likes playing with them and it’s just the building that’s an issue, his face lit up. That’s why he’s down there now with an entire universe he’s created that doesn’t need building. He’s directing her on how it’s set up and finding ways to play with her. And they’re engaged and happy down there. I’m so proud of him for finding a way to include her in his favorite activity and figuring out how to ask her questions to get the answer he’s searching for rather than giving up after the first question.

Stanford Children’s Health celebrates extraordinary kids every day, too. In fact, they have an awesome (and I don’t use that term lightly – this time) way you can create a custom video showing your own child’s extraordinary traits. I made one for Mister Man, and I’ll admit that when I watched it the first time, I almost cried.

Personalized video from Stanford Children's Health

Your kid is extraordinary. Show them how much you enjoy every moment together by creating a special video of your own! It’s so easy to put together this personalized video that shares how your child is one-of-a-kind and shares your hopes and dreams and love of your child. It’s up to you whether to keep it private or share it in the gallery, and it takes just a few minutes to do.

I love the idea of celebrating the little moments and the things kids do every day. It’s what makes them who they are, and we love them even more for them. These are the things where I nudge Mister Man to me with a look and give him a high five, where I stop him in his science summer school class to congratulate him for sitting so quietly and politely to listen to someone else’s presentation about dinosaurs – one of his other favorite topics – and not interrupt once.

We’re lucky that we don’t (knock on wood) have to go visit doctors on a regular basis. I know too many who do. Those who are lucky enough to live in the Bay Area with children can heave a sigh of relief – whether they have major health issues or are a routine appointment only family – knowing that Stanford Children’s Health and Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford has been the top-ranked children’s hospital in Northern California for over a decade. And Stanford Children’s Health doctors can be reached within 10 miles of most homes in the San Francisco Bay Area.

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls Collective and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.


Top 15 Ways To Make Homework Less Painful

School is out – or nearly so – just about everywhere around the country. Parents – and kids – are heaving huge sighs of relief because the nightly battle over homework is over for another year. If your home is anything like mine, homework often takes far longer than it “should” before it’s completed. We’ve spent a lot of time figuring out the best ways to make it less painful for everyone involved, and we’ve had a lot of success with some of the things we’ve implemented.

Although it’s summer, our school believes in keeping the mind active so that you don’t end up with the dreaded summer learning loss. To that end, each of the wee ones has a math workbook to complete, and they are also asked to read for at least 15 minutes every single day. The reading is not a problem in our house, and we work on the math book 3 pages each day. This is a great chance to introduce new habits for the upcoming school year to help make homework go more quickly and improve study habits.

We’ve seen a difference, and I’d love to share my top 15 homework helpers with you.

15 tips to make homework less painful - for you and for your child. These top 15 ways are easy to implement and make a real difference in reducing frustration and improving focus

Top 15 Homework Tips

1. Set up a dedicated homework area. Whether your child does homework at the kitchen table, a designated desk, or wherever you determine, make that a designated homework zone so that your child has appropriate space to work.

2. Have all supplies available in the homework zone. As a corollary to the first tip, have everything you need right there. If you’re working at a desk, it’s easy to put the pens, markers, scissors, protractors, calculators, thesauruses – whatever your child needs – in the desk drawer so there is no need to get up and hunt, disrupting the focus on homework. If you’re doing homework at the kitchen table, create a homework bin like the one I have for my car that you can pull out whenever your child sits down to work.

3. Ensure the homework zone is free from distractions. That means more than just turning off the tv. Clear off the work surface so that only the homework your child is working on at the moment is visible. Don’t have your desk stacked with books and papers from school, erasers, little toys, and the like. It’s too easy to start focusing on them – or on homework that is yet to come – rather than the task at hand.

4. Create a homework schedule, and stick to it. Some kids are great first thing in the morning, while others are more clearheaded after school. Figure out when your child works best, and do the majority of your homework then. I have a friend who dedicates 6-7am every morning to her son’s homework because that’s when he’s best able to focus. Here, we do most homework after the wee ones have gotten home from school, had a snack (with protein), and relaxed for a few minutes. Every child is different, and fitting your routine to their abilities makes it easier.

5. Spread out projects. This is a no-brainer. I know I’m not the only one who wrote term papers in college mere hours before they were due, cranking out pages after page as fast as I possibly could. It was a ton of stress, and I worried about it before I started it – plus, it was never my best work. Instead, sit down with your child (until they’re able to do this on their own) and discuss any school projects and plan out what work you’ll do when so that it isn’t overwhelming.

6. Do homework in advance when you can. Mister Man had two weekly assignments this year. He had a social studies/online research set of questions that was due every Friday, and he had a reading response that was due every Wednesday. We chose to complete both of those on the weekends instead of waiting. We had more time available and flexibility to work on weekends, and tha freed up time during the week for any unexpected homework that popped up. This works great for any homework that you know you have on a regular basis, and though Mister Man hated that we made him finish them early, he was always grateful and happy to finish them early and not worry about them during the week.

7. Be visible but not obtrusive. Especially for little kids, it’s easy to get off task. Don’t disappear while your child is working if they have a tendency to lose focus. While they need to learn to do their homework on their own at some point, you need to know if they’re hard at work or staring off into space… or building LEGOs. Don’t hover and dictate their every move, but be able to keep an eye out.

8. Know when to take a break. There are days when your child may have a legitimate two hours of homework, or their 5 minute math sheet may take them two hours. Sitting working on homework for two straight hours, especially if they’re not making much progress can be tough. Set a timer for 15 minutes. When it goes off, let them have a five minute break to stretch, read a book, play with LEGOs, something to relax them so they can get back to work. As they get older, set the timer for progressively longer stretches before giving them a 5 minute break each half hour when they need it.

9. Don’t escalate the situation. We’ve all been there. It’s an easy problem, but our child is simply stuck. Nothing we say helps because they’ve put blinders on. It’ so easy to feed on their frustration and build it up so that you’re just as – if not more – frustrated than they are. Shockingly, this never seems to help in our household. Instead, me taking a deep breath and separating myself from my child’s frustration so that I can react calmly is the only solution that doesn’t end in tears.

10. Take an exercise break. When your child gets frustrated, resetting his system can make a big difference. A lot of this can be accomplished with “heavy work” or some quick calisthenics. Do some push ups or carry a load of books across the room. Run around the house three times or do 30 jumping jacks. It’s partly about the distraction, but it’s more about getting your body out of the bad pattern and ready to work again.

11. Make it relateable to your kids. When doing math problems, Mister Man sometimes gets stuck and says it’s too hard. It’s amazing to me, however, when I turn a three step math problem into a word problem involving LEGOs. He adores them, and suddenly, he’s paying attention to the numbers and doing what he’s supposed to do. Instead of having math be abstract numbers, make it mean something to your kids when they get stuck. Talk about buying 13 ice cream cones and eating 6 and wanting to know how many you have left. Say there are four race cars and you get six more for your birthday and now you want to know how many you have. Get creative and find a way to make the math mean something to your kids. For math, manipulatives tend to make a big difference, too. Draw out the problem or have a container of pennies you can use to illustrate the problem and make it more concrete.

12. Help break it down into steps. Whenever we do a writing assignment, Mister Man tenses up. He starts writing and goes bare bones, with the minimum he thinks he can get away with because he doesn’t know what to write. He’s a very creative and articulate child, however, and I found that spending three or five minutes before he starts writing talking about what he wants to say and bouncing ideas back and forth, he suddenly has some great inspiration and writes a great response. Ask the leading questions – why do you think? what happened when? where was your favorite? And lead them down the path of organizing that into the writing assignment. As they get more comfortable with it, pass off more and more of the responsibility for figuring this out onto them.

13. When all else fails, throw in the towel. Yes, really. There are some days and some homework assignments that will just not click with your child. Especially when they’re in elementary school, know where the stopping point is. If you’re spending two hours on an assignment and making no progress, quit. Turn it in incomplete or work on it another night. It isn’t worth the suffering when this is a genuine issue and not something they are using simply as an excuse to not do homework. So don’t let it become a habit, but know that there are times when it’s ok to not finish everything.

14. Keep in communication with your children’s teachers. I don’t mean you should be that parent who pesters the teacher about every little thing, but discuss your homework concerns with the teachers in a rational manner. If your teacher loves email, do it via email. If it’s a phone call or an in person chat, make sure you schedule it in advance so the teacher has the time available to dedicate to your concerns. If your child consistently spends hours on homework, they should know. They may have tips for you specific to your children, or they may tell you to modify the homework assignments.

15. Require your child’s best effort. Homework is about practicing what you know and showing the teacher that you understand the concept so they can move on in their teaching. It isn’t about doing it as fast as you can do simply be done. Both my children will sometimes race through homework so they can do more fun things. For me, that means that I go over their homework and make them fix sloppy mistakes because I know they’re capable of that and because I want them to understand that they need to work hard and learn to do it right the first time. Fortunately or unfortunately, they’re both good students, so their teachers sometimes let them get away with sloppy mistakes too often. That said, sometimes their best effort is three sentences without all the right capitals or a math assignment that doesn’t show all the work because that’s all they’re capable of that day. Sometimes, they simply don’t understand a concept, and it’s important for the teacher to know that so they can reteach the concept if necessary. And when that’s their best effort, I let it go. Best effort doesn’t mean perfect. It means the best your child can do that day, and it will vary.

Regardless of what works for you, find a routine and stick with it. Homework is rarely fun, but it can be less painful. We’re working on our good habits now so that they’re in place for the future. And so I can retain at least a modicum of my sanity. So what are your best homework tips and tricks?


Teach Kids To Tie Shoes: Quick And Easy Trick

Mister Man has some fine motor challenges. Needless to say, when he was little we always bought him shoes that had Velcro. Easy. Done. But as his feet started to grow when he got into kindergarten and first grade, suddenly it wasn’t so easy to find those Velcro shoes anymore. And in first grade, he started having cross country skiing as a gym activity, and those boots were only laces. And thus began my quest to teach kids to tie shoes, particularly my kids.

Fortunately in first grade they would help the kids tie their shoes, but they were told in the spring that they had to learn to tie “real” shoes or they weren’t going to be able to participate the next year. No big deal. I remember learning to tie my shoes when I was in kindergarten or first grade – mostly because Velcro didn’t exist in shoes back then and I had no choice.

I taught my tried and true method of making the loop and having the bunny get chased into the hole. Mister Man looked, watched, and told me he had it. But no matter how many times he tried, he couldn’t figure out which string to pull when he got to the last step, and inevitably, it would all fall apart. He was frustrated, I got frustrated, and we took a break.

Fortunately, he was in the midst of occupational therapy at the time, and his therapist offered to teach him to tie his shoes one day because that was a skill she had on her docket. She didn’t tell me in advance, but he came out of his session beaming like I hadn’t seen in a long time. It was pure pride on his face, and Andrea looked at me and announced that within a fifteen minute period, he had learned to tie his shoes.

Teaching kids to tie shoes can be frustrating, but with this simple trick, it's easy as can be for everyone!

All it took was a simple little trick that anyone can use to teach kids to tie shoes. I’ve used this trick to help friends teach kids to tie shoes since then, and it’s been a miracle worker. The key seems to be giving them a target so they know exactly what to grasp and pull at the end of the shoe tying to create the bow.

And yep, it’s worked for all of them so far. How about yours?