Montessori Practical Life Lesson: Bow-Tying Dressing Frame

Every Thursday we bring you a Montessori Practical Life Lesson from Beth Holley.

We’ve been doing a series of Montessori dressing frames lesson posts which help your child learn how to dress themselves. After the buttoning frame, zipper frame, snap frame, and hook and eye frame, comes the bow-tying dressing frame (which we introduced during our Cinderella unit study).
Montessori Practical Life Lesson for the Bow Tying Dressing Frame - Teach Children How to Tie their Shoes with this Simple Montessori Practical Life Material

Today’s Montessori practical life lesson introduces the bow-tying frame. This particular frame involves a lot of precise steps! This lesson is usually reserved for the older child, perhaps four or five years of age, or even older, if the child has not yet learned how to tie her shoes. It’s important that the child has the attention span and patience to attend to all the steps.

In the classic presentation, the teacher unties and reties all the bows before offering the frame to the child. I do this, as well; however, after offering the frame to the child, I observe carefully to see if she can follow all the steps. If it appears to be a bit much for her, I will slowly demonstrate one bow alone, then have the child do the next bow below. We’ll alternate in this way, if necessary.

You will notice that most practical life lessons are offered without words. The teacher is showing rather than telling. The same is true for the bow-tying frame. Because this lesson is rather complicated, you may have to demonstrate more than once and say to the child, “Watch carefully.”

As with all lessons, if it appears that you have slightly misjudged the child’s readiness, find a gracious way to put the lesson away and try again on another day.

Note: This particular lesson is more easily shown than described! See this YouTube video for a clear demonstration.

Following is my album write-up from pre-YouTube days!

Montessori Practical Life Lesson for the Bow Tying Dressing Frame - Teach Children How to Tie their Shoes with this Simple Montessori Practical Life Material

How To Present the Montessori Bow-Tying Dressing Frame


  • Direct: to develop the finger control and dexterity needed to tie bows; to learn how to manipulate strings to create a bow
  • Indirect: independence and concentration

Material: a Montessori bow–tying frame (or you can make your own frames)

Age: 4–5


1. Untie each bow by pulling the end of each string, one right, one left.

2. Untie each knot: hold the fabric steady with one hand, wrap thumb and forefinger of other hand around the knot and pull upward until the knot is loose. Lay strings out to both sides.

3. Fold back both panels of fabric to show that the bows are fully disengaged. Close fabric.

4. From top to bottom, cross each set of strings right over left.

5. From top to bottom, create a knot: string now laying to the right wraps over and under left string.

6. From top to bottom, make bows:

  • A) create a loop with left string, hold at the base with a pincer grasp
  • B) wrap right string around the base of the loop clockwise
  • C) using your forefinger, push wrapping string between itself and the base of the loop
  • D) release
  • E) grasp left loop with left pincer and right loop with right pincer, and then pull each simultaneously to tighten the bow.

7. Invite the child to try.

Points of Interest:

  • Does the child properly cross and wrap the strings?
  • Does she use the pincer grasp where appropriate?


To learn more about Montessori theory, please visit Beth’s blog A Montessori Lexicon, and you can also find her on Teachers Pay Teachers.


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