How to Adapt Buttoning and Zipping For Your Child

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.

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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

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.

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.

  1.  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.Buttoning and Zipping
  2.  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.
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.


3. 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

4. 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.

To read all of Miss Jaime, O.T.’s posts in this series, check out my Functional Skills for Kids landing page.

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 Fine Motor Skill Development | Kids Play Space

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


Related Posts:

EZPZ Special Needs Showering
OT Tips and Tricks Pocketbook sized toys

Holiday Posts:

thanksteach morgans dollar store fidgets, dollar store sensory

12 thoughts on “How to Adapt Buttoning and Zipping For Your Child

  1. Tera says:

    Hello. One of the greatest difficulties that I have with zipping is that the kids are unable to thread it into the track adequately. How can I grade this or make it easier. I have tried painting the inside of the track and the other portion of the zipper. I am struggling with how I can move towards independence with a zipping goal.

    • Jaime S says:

      This IS a hard concept for kids to grasp. painting the inside of the track is a great idea! I also tell kids that the zipper is like a rocketship, and it needs to be sitting on the base nice and straight before the astronaut (other side) can get in his seat in the rocket. I find that they usually don’t hold the zipper on the base properly, which makes it difficult to get the other side IN.

  2. Gazwan Noori Noori says:

    These could be sort of a bonding time with your kids when you will teach them about the simple things that we could do to sew some parts of a shirt or any accessories could also be done with simple materials stated above. This is a good read to mothers to have an idea on what they will do with their free time together with their kids.

  3. joycew.skidmore says:

    Fabulous tips and very helpful !! My daughter is 13 years old and has a Celebrity Jacket with purple color so can you please guide me about how to insert the baj and zipper on the front of jacket?? Kindly ans my query as soon as possible. I will be very thankful to you.

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