Buttoning and Zipping can be stressful and difficult to learn.  Check out these OT tricks to adapt buttons and zippers for your kid!

Busy parents on the go have their plate full in the morning. Breakfast, washing up, brushing teeth, and finding backpacks all help create that chaotic school day morning.

Then don’t forget about getting dressed! 

When little ones can get dressed on their own, it takes a huge burden off moms and dads in the morning.  Buttons and zippers can be a major inconvenience.

BUT- there are some simple ways to adapt buttoning and zipping so that your child can do it independently.

Many toddlers and young school-age children wear sweats and leggings to school to avoid the work of buttoning and zipping.

What about older children with weak fine motor skills?

What about children with physical limitations?

They should be able to wear jeans and other clothing just like their peers! Here’s how.

This post contains affiliate links for your convenience

FunctionalSkillsforKids (1)

This post is part of a 12-month series called Functional Skills for Kids written by pediatric OTs and PTs to post on different developmental topics that impact functional skills for kids.

This month’s topic in the  “Functional Skills for Kids” blog hop is Buttoning and Zipping, so check out the landing page for the rest of our posts and information on all things related!

How to ADAPT Buttoning and Zipping

How to Adapt Buttoning

There are tons of cute ideas and products out there to practice buttoning and to prepare to learn how to button.  But somehow the act of buttoning while wearing the shirt, vest, etc. is always harder.

Buttoning and Zipping

An old shirt is perfect to start learning how to work with “adult” size buttons. Cut off the “extra” material to make it easier for your child.

Once your child is ready to learn to button, there are some simple tricks to adapt and modify the task to make it easier to accomplish. Use visual cues for hand placement:  I love to use stickers to show children exactly where to place their hands during a buttoning activity.  Stickers are easy to pop on and usually fall off on their own.  Plus, they don’t damage clothing.

  1. Don’t have any small buttons for your child to practice with?  Cut the extra material off of an old shirt. This eliminates the “hanging” fabric on a small child.   Sometimes those tiny holes can be hard to see.  If so, try the stickers, or highlight the button hole with a magic marker for easy matching.


2. If your child has difficulty matching up the correct buttons with the holes, you can add different color stickers so they can match.  You can also number them so your child buttons the top one, then the second, rather than skipping around.

Buttoning and Zipping

3. Use verbal cues or stories to remind your child of the sequence of the task.  Many children have difficulty using two hands at the same time, so I like to use this little saying to remind them.
Buttoning and Zipping


Zippers can be such a drag!  The hardest part is connecting the two parts, but holding the material and pulling the zipper at the same time isn’t easy either!

You can try these tricks:

  1. Use a simple key ring to add a “pull” ring or try a cute charm for easy grabbing

Buttoning and Zipping
2. Attach a strong velcro to the fly (next to the zipper) and in place of the snap-on jeans.  Any local seamstress can do this for you.

3. Use stickers or a piece of Wiki Stix  to show your child where to hold the fabric

Buttoning and Zipping

Other cool ways to adapt that you should know about:

1. Tommy Hilfiger designed a special needs line of clothing to help with ease of dressing!   Check it out here!   He uses magnetic closures, easy-open seams, and way more.

 Finally – adaptive clothing that is stylish AND easy to get on!

2. Under Armour has a line of products with Magnetic Zipper closures called “MagZip”.  These closures were first designed to help people with arthritis zip their own coats.  BUT, they are so convenient for people with physical disabilities,  children, and skiers with gloves on!   *Make sure you look for the term “Mag Zip” closure.  This is a great way to make sure your child will be able to zip their coat, even when you aren’t there!


This post is part of the Functional Skills for Kids series.  Check out all of the bloggers who are participating and learn more about the series by clicking on the link above.

For more information on the components and considerations related to Buttoning, Zipping, and Fasteners, stop by and see what the other Occupational Therapists and Physical Therapists on the Functional Skills for Kids team have to say:

When Can Kids Learn to Button and Zip? | Mama OT

Clothing Fasteners and Gross Motor Skill Development | Your Therapy Source Inc

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

Pinch. Poke. Snap… Helping Kids to Manage Buttons, Zips and More!  | Your Kids OT


Pin It on Pinterest