Yesterday, I was on my way to grocery shop when I heard a local radio station announcer ask a question of the listening audience. It went something like this, “Today, 70% of children entering kindergarten can use a computer, but only 10% can do this. What is it?” Well, I am not trying to brag but I knew what it was right away. Unfortunately, it took several incorrect answers from callers to finally arrive at the right one: tying their shoes! Any exposure to young children today will quickly verify the correct response.
Learning to tie one’s shoes is an essential part of childhood. It used to be highly suggested, along with knowing one’s street address and phone number, that children be able do these activities of daily living (ADL’s) prior to entering school as a kindergartener.
This is a task that I had difficulty learning. I read early. I knew my address and phone number, but tying my shoes was not easy for me! Primarily, it was because my mom showed me how to do it backwards. She was left-handed and I was a righty. In fact, I was the only right-handed person in my whole family! Apparently, I couldn’t wrap my head around it until my maternal grandmother witnessed my mom trying to show me how to do it! Anyway, I did eventually learn and went to kindergarten on schedule.
Today, many kindergarteners do not know how to tie their shoes. Velcro has made it too easy to learn how to put on shoes without knowing how to tie or bothering to learn. If the above radio show contest question has any validity, the vast majority of students do not know how to perform this basic skill as a kindergartener. I looked to validate the data but the nearest resource I could find that cited any percentages close was from 2011. That is a fair number of years ago.
And, since technology usage has only increased in the last 8 years, I would hedge a bet that even fewer kindergarteners know how to tie their shoes today, than in 2011. Realistically, I do not have enough contact with this age group to make an educated guess about it.
But, what I do have knowledge of is the lack of young students, grade 2 and below, who do not know their street address or phone number. Unfortunately, several times this year I have had young students that were not picked up in a timely fashion from the after school club I lead. By timely, I am referring to a period of up to fifteen minutes after the dismissal time. This has been extended to thirty, or even 45 minutes past dismissal, on more than one occasion.
I have had to call the homes’ of those students. None of them knew the phone number to call in order to reach their parents/guardians. Really?! These are young students! Luckily, I had phone numbers on file for all the families, except for one. The child for whom I did not have a phone number, did not know a phone number that I could call! Luckily, there was another staff member still at school at 5:30 at night and we were able to track down a number for this student. Still, it was nerve-wracking and frustrating all at the same time.
Sadly, I think technology, again, is to blame. Numbers are not memorized any more. We hit a name on speed dial or from the contact list on our cell phone and the call is placed. Many homes now have more than one phone number, as each adult and sometimes even each family member have phones. Heck, in some homes, Alexa or Google might be making the call for us!
This is unsafe. Yes, children should learn to tie their shoes before heading off to kindergarten. If you accomplish this task, and teach your child before their life in K-12 school starts, their early teachers will be very happy. It will save a ton of time before recess, PE, or just walking down the hall. Your child will also be able to help other children, and therefore, be valued by their teacher! Yes, teach them to tie their shoes!
But, if you cannot seem to manage that (maybe, they have a right-handed mom teaching a left-handed child how to tie or write), please, in the very least, make sure they know a phone number where they can reach an adult in their life that cares for them. It is important information for them to know….more so than any computer knowledge they might seem to possess as a young student in kindergarten, first, or second grade.