Children may have difficulties doing up buttons and zips for a variety of reasons, such as problems with movement or vision.
- Start by using large buttons on a doll, a jumper worn by someone else or a toy.
- Teach the child using the ‘backward chaining’ technique. First, break the activity down into steps. You carry out most of the steps, but leave the last one – pulling the button through the button hole – for the child to do. When they’ve mastered that step, let them to do the last two steps, and so on until they can complete the whole task.
- Once the child has mastered large buttons, move on to fastening items with smaller buttons.
- To make it easier you could sew the buttons back on with a thick thread, leaving about half an inch of thread between the button and the fabric.
- Make a ‘button box’ by cutting horizontal and vertical slots in the top of a shoe box. Let the child post buttons or coins through the holes.
- Make a ‘button board’ out of fabric and large buttons. Make the button holes at least a quarter of an inch larger than the buttons, then sew the buttons on loosely with strong thread. Put a picture under the fabric so that after the buttons are unfastened the picture is revealed.
- Use threading cards/games/activities, which use the same skills as fastening buttons.
- When you’re teaching the child to fasten shirt buttons, remember to start buttoning from the bottom to the top to make sure each button and button hole match correctly.
- Encourage the child to check him or herself in the mirror.
- Top buttons and sleeve buttons are often very difficult and can be replaced with velcro or a popper (you could sew the button on permanently on the outside).
- Show the child how to fasten and unzip a zip by pulling on the tab. Let them help you pull the zip up or down.
- Zip tags can be made easier to grasp by attaching a piece of ribbon, a zip ring or a large paper clip.
- Start with heavy-duty large zips which have big tabs or rings as these slide more easily.
- Practice unzipping a purse or pocket to reveal a surprise.
- Replace velcro tabs with zips to encourage the child to fasten or unfasten on their own.