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Putting your shoes and socks on

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Health and hygiene

Duration/age

Duration: 
Suitable for children: 
Young girl putting her shoes and socks on

Shoes and socks sometimes need to go on quickly, but when you have a few extra minutes putting on shoes and socks can be a wonderful opportunity to explore direction, space and the type of footwear you need for different events or weather conditions.

Talk to your child about where you are going and what you might do when you get there. Be sure to do this before you choose the shoes and socks as this might affect which footwear you will need. If you are not going anywhere special does it matter what your child wears? Can they make the choice about what to wear? Is your child able to find the shoes themselves or do they need your help?

Does your child have a favourite pair and can they find them on their own?

Talk about the order that shoes and socks go on.

Will you do the shoes and socks on the left foot first or will you do both socks first and then the shoes after? First put on your socks, then put on your shoes.

Talk about where to place the socks to pull them up over the toes and then the foot.

Materials you will need

  • Shoes
  • Socks

Alternative tools

  • Ugg boots
  • Tights
  • Thongs
  • Boots
  • Slippers

Why does this matter?

Working with your child to get their shoes and socks on is a wonderful opportunity for your child to hear and follow directions and to learn to sequence an activity - first the sock goes on over the toes and then the shoes go on last. As they listen to you talk they will begin to sort, group and classify the objects that go together. For example, Summer shoes vs Winter shoes or by the colour and visuals on the shoes and socks.

As your child uses their hand to grasp and pull the socks over their toes and feet they are using and strengthening the small muscles in their hands and fingers. As they do this they are training their fingers to separate and to move apart - a skill that will be needed for holding a pen and for creating small enclosed letters and symbols.

What does this lead to?

As children put on their shoes and socks they are developing hand dominance and hand control. Hand dominance and control is required for children to become skilled writers who can write for an extended periods of time without having to rest.

Pulling the socks up over the foot or coordinating where to place the toes in the shoe enables children to sequence instructions with physical action and to become aware of the movement of their body in space. Understanding how to coordinate thought and action is important as this will help children to move through and around objects in the environment without crashing into or falling over them.

Language to use

  • Left, right
  • Top, bottom, under, over
  • Foot, feet, toe, heal, arch, ankle
  • Socks, tights, stockings
  • Shoes, thongs, boots, ugg boots, sandals, slippers
  • First, next, before, last, finished
  • Laces, velcro, strap, sole, button, buckle

Questions to use

  • Which one goes on first?
  • Can you wear the left shoe on the right foot?
  • Can you show me the shoes? Can you show me the socks?
  • Are they the same size?
  • Which is the longest? Which is the shortest?
  • Which pair of shoes do you need?
  • Where are your shoes?
  • Are all shoes the same size?

Useful tips

  1. You might also like to take a look at the activities Time for new shoes and How tall am I?
  2. Remember to talk to your child in your home language.

More ideas

  1. Create a lacing card so children can practice lacing shoes and tying laces.
  2. Take photos of different shoes and socks and use them to play matching games.

Variation by age

Birth to two year olds

  • Sort a basket of socks, finding the matching pairs.
  • Place differently sized shoes into a dress up basket and see which ones fit.
  • Add baby socks to the clothing for your child’s dolls.
  • Sing songs together as you put on the shoes and socks.
  • Borrow books from the local library about feet, shoes and getting dressed.

Three to five year olds

  • Borrow books from the local library about feet, shoes and getting dressed.
  • Make a tape measure and find out who has the biggest or the smallest feet in the family.
  • Set up a shoe shop for pretend play.
  • Make your own storybook about shoes and feet.
  • Explore the junk mail to find pictures of shoes.

Questions to ask

  • Can you find the red sock?
  • Which is the big one?
  • Which is the small one?
  • Whose shoe is that?
  • Whose foot is that?

Questions to ask

  • Whose shoe is that?
  • Whose foot is that?
  • Are all feet the same size?
  • Do animals wear shoes?
  • What shoes can you wear to the beach?
  • What shoes are safe for running in?

Language to use

  • Red, green, yellow, blue, orange
  • Big, little, small, medium

Language to use

  • Big, little, small, medium
  • Red, green, yellow, blue, orange