Lacing | Learning, Ideas, And Materials

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Over the last 5 years we’ve added a bunch of lacing toy ideas to the Explorations Early Learning Webshop at because most kids go through a stage sometime between 2 and 6 where they really dig the activity and because the activity is so full of potential learning. As I remember it, when I was in the 2-6 age range, lacing generally took place with a red shoelace and either a bunch of painted wooden beads or some tattered-from-use cardboard lacing toys shaped like ducks or cows.

The world of lacing is much bigger now. Let’s dig into it.


Kids are always learning and building skills as they engage the world. It’s hard to tell exactly what they are learning at any given moment, but here’s a look at some of the learning that could be happening when young children lace.

  • Visual Tracking–Lacing helps children learn to track objects with their eyes.
  • Hand-Eye Coordination–Lacing helps children learn to coordinate hand movement with eye movement.
  • Small Muscle Strength–Lacing helps build the small muscles in the hand and wrist.
  • Small Muscle Control–Lacing helps children develop control over the small muscles in the hand and wrist.
  • Sensory Awareness–Lacing helps develop the sense of touch as children interact with different textures.
  • Pattern Recognition–Lacing helps children learn to create and recognize patterns.
  • Social Skills–Lacing helps kids learn social skills like sharing, waiting for turns, and cooperation.
  • Language Skills–A couple kids lacing together is a rich opportunity to engage in conversation.

Most of the above item are pre-reading and pre-writing skills and all of them are valuable to hone before leaving preschool for a more formal learning environment.

Lacing Toys

There are plenty of functional and affordable lacing toys (like these and these) on the interwebs, but I have a bias for the stuff I make for our Webshop (save 10% with the code SAVE10):

When shopping, look for items that are preschooler-tough and interesting.

DIY Lacing Ideas

There are also plenty of loose parts that lend themselves to lacing:

  • Colanders
  • Beads
  • Breakfast Cereal
  • Pasta
  • Keys
  • Washers
  • Nuts
  • PVC Pipe Fittings
  • Wiffle Balls
  • Paperclips
  • Thread Spools
  • Coffee Creamer Lids

Lace Ideas

What should you lace with? Here are a few ideas:

  • Yarn
  • String
  • Leather Laces
  • Shoe Laces
  • Bamboo Skewers
  • Plastic Lanyards
  • Twine
  • Long Grass Blades
  • Ribbon
  • Wire
  • Rope
  • Pipe Cleaners

Using a variety of materials keeps the activity interesting, exposes kids to different materials (and words to name and describe those materials), and inspires creativity.

Other Lacing Thoughts

When I was a kid, lacing was a sit-inside-at-a-table-activity. It doesn’t have to be. Consider:

  • Taking lacing toys outside.
  • Make it OK for kids to stand up, lay down, or even walk around while lacing.
  • Integrating lacing into block play, dramatic play, art projects, water play, and other parts of the day.
  • Lacing is a great riding in the car activity for children who are interested in lacing.


Lacing offers young children abundant opportunities for play, exploration, and discovery based learning. It’s something that kids can do almost anywhere with simple and readily available materials. We here at Playvolution HQ would love to hear your lacing-related ideas, thoughts, questions, and experiences in the comments below.

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Jeff is an early learning speaker, toymaker, podcaster, content creator, author, and founder of Playvolution HQ who is really bad at getting his picture taken.

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