Mastering Buttons and Fasteners

The ability to button and manipulate clothes fasteners is an important skill for kids to master to help them achieve independence with dressing. Learning to do up their buttons and zippers can be tricky as there are a range of fine motor skills that are required to complete these types of tasks. However, there are some fun activities to help develop these skills and some handy tips to try when your child is beginning to learn.

Developmental Areas used for Buttons and Fasteners:

  • Bilateral coordination: to do up buttons and zips, both hands need to work together in a coordinated way while completing different movements
  • Pincer grasp: as buttons, zips and other fasteners are often small, they require a good grasp to hold them
  • Hand and finger strength: strong fingers are needed to push the button through the hole, hold the buttonhole and pull up zips
  • Visual motor integration: in order to button or zip we need to be about to translate what we see into a movement, to accurately push the button through the hole and fit the zip into the zipper
  • Motor planning and sequencing:
  • Zips:
    1. Hold the zip tight with one hand
    2. Pull the zip closed or open it with the other hand
  • Buttons:
    1. Hold the clothing item with one hand and the button with the other hand
    2. Push the button through the clothing item
    3. Switch hands to pull the button through the clothing item.

Activities to Develop these Skills:

  • Putting coins into a piggy bank: this helps to develop the use of a pincer grasp when handling small objects and visual motor skills to fit small items into holes
  • Threading beads: to help develop the use of both hands together and visual motor skills to thread lace in the hole
  • Squeezing putty or squishy balls: to develop hand and finger strength
  • Play-Doh: rolling and manipulating Play-Doh helps develop hand strength and using both hands together
  • Craft activities involving cutting and gluing: crafts are a great way to build fine motor skills and control, while using scissors helps to develop the use of both hands together in a coordinated manner and creating the craft develops planning and sequencing skills

Tips for Teach Kids to Button / Zip:

  • Backwards Chaining: an adult completes most of the task and the child completes the last portion. For example, the last button or the last part of the zipper. This helps give the child a sense of mastery and build their confidence
  • Unbutton / Unzip First: this allows a child to learn and understand how buttons and zips work, and begins to use and improve some of the fine motor skills required for buttoning / zipping
  • Use Large Buttons / Zips: when first learning to do up buttons and zips it can be useful to use larger buttons and zips as they are easily to hold and manipulate

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