If you’re a mom or a teacher (or anyone who’s around kids a lot), you know how long it can take to get everyone dressed and out the door in the morning. Use this activity to teach kids to zip and button!
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When it’s cold outside and extra layers of clothing are piled on, things take even longer. Most preschoolers are ready to start taking some of this process into their own hands (literally!) by becoming more independent with clothing fasteners.
Tips to Teach Kids to Zip and Button
1|| Start Early!
It’s never too early to expose babies and young children to fine motor toys and play activities. Toys with buttons to push, handles to grasp, or moving parts to manipulate are all great for this. Encourage the efficient use of both hands together in babies and toddlers by introducing shape sorters, puzzles, and any “put in” activity (kids LOVE filling up containers with almost anything you can find around the house!).
2 || Pre-Fastener Activities
For younger kids, get started by presenting some “pre-fastener” activities that work on manipulation skills and get both hands working together efficiently. Here are some I use at work and at home with my kids:
-Lacing cards – Melissa and Doug makes this cute animal set and this set from Eric Carle is adorable too!
–Feed the tennis ball from Therapy Fun Zone is a great bilateral coordination activity. I’ve seen this activity elsewhere, but here, they turn the tennis balls into vampires, which is just plain funny. My kids at work LOVE this activity. It never gets old!
-Pushing pick up sticks or toothpicks into styrofoam.
-Playing with buttons! Glue them onto a frame, sort them by color or size, stack them, etc.
3 || Beginning Fastener Activities
Next, move on and start to practice with activities that are closer to the real thing:
-Putting loose buttons or coins into a container with a slit cut in the top (an empty cream cheese or yogurt container is perfect for this)
–A button snake like this one from Happy Hooligans is great for getting little hands practicing with real buttons.
-Passing loose buttons through button holes on real clothing (clothing not on body).
-Practicing hooking zippers and fastening buttons on clothing that is not on the body to make it easier to see and manipulate.
4 || The Real Thing
Now kids will be ready to practice with clothing that is actually on their bodies.
-Start with the largest buttons and zippers you can find.
-Lots of repeated hand over hand practice for zippers helps kids feel and visualize how to hook the two sides together.
-Add a ribbon or string loop to zippers on kids coats and sweatshirts to make a larger zipper pull.
The most important thing? Patience! :) A rushed, crazy morning when you’re late for work and trying to get kids bundled up and loaded into the car? Not the best time to practice. A better time might be a slower-paced weekend morning or practicing buttons on pajamas in the evening. Challenge your kids to be more independent, but take it one step at a time.
Learn more about teaching kids how to dress themselves!
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This post is part of the Functional Skills for Kids series. Be sure to check out each of the posts about the development of functional skills from The Inspired Treehouse. Here is what the other pediatric occupational and physical therapists have to say about clothing fasteners:
When Can Kids Learn to Button and Zip? | Mama OT
Clothing Fasteners and Gross Motor Skill Development | Your Therapy Source Inc
How to Adapt Buttoning and Zipping for Your Child | Miss Jaime OT
Learning How To Use Buttons, Snaps, Zippers, and Buckles Through Play | Growing Hands-On Kids
Tips to Teach Kids to Zip and Button | The Inspired Treehouse
Clothing Fasteners and Sensory Processing | Sugar Aunts
The Visual Motor Aspect of Buttons and Zippers | Therapy Fun Zone