Fort Myers occupational therapy

Zip It! Occupational Therapy Tips on Learning to Button & Zip

Learning to get dressed is an essential function of independence. But none of us is born learning to tie, button, or zip. For kids with developmental delays and disabilities, these skills can take longer. Our FOCUS Fort Myers occupational therapy team can help.

Developmental Progression of Buttoning and Zipping

Every child develops at a different pace, so there are no hard-and-fast rules for when a child should be able to master buttoning and zipping. That said, some general milestone guidelines are:

1.5-2 years: 

  • Can unzip zippers with large tabs.
  • Can pull a large zipper tab up if an adult holds the bottom of it tight.

2 years: 

  • Can unbutton large buttons (1 inch or more).

2.5-3 years:

  • Can button 3 large buttons, though they may not do so in the right order.

2.5-3.5 years:

  • Can unzip and unsnap clothing while wearing it.

3-4.5 years:

  • Is able to close the front snap on clothing.
  • Can button and unbutton while wearing front-opening clothing.

4.5-5 years:

  • Opens all the fasteners on any piece of clothing.

5-6 years:

  • Can hook and zip up on their own.

5 to 6 years: 

  • Can hook and zip up on their own while wearing the clothing.

But none of these things can be mastered until other prerequisites are conquered. They need to be showing the prerequisite fine motor skills before you/we can start teaching them. Some of the things our occupational therapy team will look for:

A neat pincer grasp. This is when the tip of the thumb touches the index finger when they’re picking up small items.

  • Supine rotation of the forearm, so that it faces palm up.
  • Ability to place tiny objects in a small container.
  • Can use both hands in midline (bring their hands together to manipulate an object).
  • Can string beads (first large then small).

Why Occupational Therapy Practitioners Care About Buttoning and Zipping

When kids can successfully tackle clothing fasteners, they’re one step closer to being able to dress themselves. Occupational therapy considers the ability to dress ones’ self an “occupation” of daily living.

If your child is struggling with zipping, buttoning, and fastening that most other kids their age have gotten down, we can evaluate the child’s performance and figure out what skill specifically they’re struggling with. Some possibilities that can interfere with a child’s ability to master these skills:

  • Hand-eye coordination.
  • Visual skills.
  • Pinching and grasping.
  • Bilateral coordination.
  • Assuming and maintaining a position that will allow them to keep the clothing article stable enough.
  • Sensory processing.
  • Motor planning.
  • Sequencing.
  • Frustration tolerance.
  • Difficulty paying attention.
  • Lack of exposure and/or practice.

Your child’s OT is going to look at all these areas, help determine what the challenges are, and work on those prerequisite skills so that they can take it to the next level.

There are even tactics we can teach you to “sneak” practice into their daily routine – certain toys, containers, and other materials.

FOCUS offers pediatric occupational therapy in Fort Myers and throughout Southwest Florida. Call (239) 313.5049 or Contact Us online.

Additional Resources:

Developmental Milestones: Dressing Skills, Children’s Hospital of Orange County

More Blog Entries:

Fort Myers Occupational Therapists: Learning to Be Flexible is Key for Kids With Autism, Sept. 10, 2021, Fort Myers Occupational Therapy Blog

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