mms_pictureTying shoes is becoming an epidemic at Sandshore Elementary School in Budd Lake.

About 50 students in grades K-2 have already signed up for Pete’s Shoe Tying Club, inspired by the book series “Pete The Cat.” Sandshore Physical Education teachers Kit Thompson and Shawn Buck started the program the second week in January, attracting new members daily.

Too many kids are getting by with slip on or Velcro shoes, but are missing out on the life long lesson and development of finger motor skills developed through shoe tying. Joining the club encourages students to demonstrate their shoe tying ability and then lend a helping hand to their peers who are still learning the skill.

Tying shoes and using their fingers are “fine motor skills that they need,” says Thompson who learned about the shoe tying club idea on the internet. “We want everyone to tie their shoes. Your fingers need to develop muscle memory. Fine motor ability is an important skill.”

When muscles get stronger, students develop stronger writing ability with their fingers, as well as typing on a keyboard, playing a musical instrument, as well as hand movement with art and drawing, explains Thompson

In order to get into the shoe tying club, students must submit an application with signatures from three witnesses. Signatures must be from someone at home; an adult at Sandshore School; and either gym teacher, Thompson or Buck.

Club members will then receive a shoe tying license and a certificate recognizing their membership which is displayed on a bulletin board in the main hallway.

One girl came up to Thompson and said ‘I brought my wallet in cause I’m supposed to get my license.’

Another student has requested shoe tying club meetings like a real club. Thompson says she may add a club meeting during school or recess where students can watch ‘Pete the Cat’ videos and get motivated.

The shoe tying club is inspired by two children’s educational books published by Harper Collins, “Rockin’ In My School Shoes” and “I Love My White Shoes.” The main character, Pete The Cat, “just keeps going along,” explains Thompson, delivering a positive message to children about not giving up.

Thompson uses a chant from the popular song “Splish Splash I was taking a bath long about a Saturday night” to new words, “Criss Cross and go under the bridge and now you have to pull it tight” to assist the students in shoe tying

She has been working with first and second graders on the skill, while kindergarten teachers have been helping their students

Some students do not own a shoe that has ties so Thompson encourages them to borrow their parent’s shoe or sneaker to practice at home.

Besides gaining fine motor skills in their fingers and hands, students will also gain self esteem and independence by learning how to tie their own shoes.

The goal of the club is “to encourage kids to be independent,” says Thompson. “I can do it myself, that’s huge. I tell them to keep trying. They have the pattern but they don’t have the finger strength yet. It’s not easy. It takes a lot of hard work and practice.”

Thompson says, “I used to tell the kids, ‘you know why I’m so good at tying shoes?- because I tie 829 shoes a week.’”

By being a member of the shoe tying club, students are also becoming great helpers.

“They are becoming helpers; getting independent,” says Thompson. “All the teachers know who’s in the shoe tying club. They can ask the kid to help the other kids in the classroom to master their skills. Instead of taking instructional time away from the teacher, it allows the students to be independent and be a student assistant. These are wonderful things.”

Students of the shoe tying club are also on the playground with their peers. By having the skill to help others tie their shoes, more students can be safer on the playground without running around with untied shoes, says Thompson.

The program is a plus all around. “Their shoes are tied to stay safe; independence; and fine motor skills, muscle memory, finger index and finger dexterity. It’s an important life skill they can develop it and master the skill.”

Applications are still being accepted

“Once you learn to tie, you are in,” says Thompson. “We want everybody in the club.”

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Cheryl Conway

Cheryl Conway has been a freelance writer for the past 17 years, covering a wide range of topics filled with details. She has B.S. degree from the University of Maryland, College Park, and a minor in English. You can find her on Facebook