Zipping, Snapping, and Fastening—Lots to Learn About Dressing

By the time children are three, they can usually put on pants with elastic waists and pull on a shirt or sweater. But doing zippers, snaps, buttons, and ties might be hard for them. This is true for all young children.

Children this age want to do things themselves, but sometimes they can’t yet. That can be frustrating for them. Parents and caregivers need a lot of patience to teach these skills.

Children learn a lot by watching others dress. But kids who are blind or have low vision don’t have access to this visual learning. They need someone to explain how to dress, practice with them, and use a step-by-step method.

Using Zippers, Snaps, and Buttons

  • Larger buttons, snaps, and zippers are easier for little fingers to grasp. When selecting clothing for your child, try to find clothing that only has a few buttons or snaps on them. This will with fastening the buttons and snaps and may help reduce frustration.
  • Teaching your child to use a zipper can be tricky. They might need to feel your hands doing it first, using the hand-under-hand method. It could take a few months for them to line up the zipper parts and zip smoothly.
  • A simple trick is to attach a key ring or something easy to hold onto the zipper. This makes it easier for them to pull it up and down.
  • It’s good for kids to practice dressing as part of their daily routine. Like getting dressed in the morning or putting on a jacket to go outside.
  • Also, toys that help with fine motor skills can be really helpful. Some toys are made just for this. They might have a doll with a jacket that has different fasteners. This could include a big button, a snap, and a bow. These toys are great for kids who are ready to learn dressing skills.

Putting on Clothes

  • Help your child learn to find the top and bottom and front and back of articles of clothing and to tell if something is inside out or ready to put on. You can point out things on the clothing that provide a clue such as a tag at the back of the neck, the buttons on the front of a shirt, and the seams on the inside.
  • Help your child take responsibility for finding and selecting their clothes. Create a system for identifying and organizing their clothing that you and your child find easy to use. You might want to try buying shorts, pants, skirts, and t-shirts in colors that can all be mixed and matched interchangeably to make it simple for your child to pick any combination without clashing.

Plan for Extra Time

  • Focus on one item of clothing at a time, for example, a t-shirt. Once your child can consistently hold the shirts the right way to pull them over their head, then have your child start checking their pants to see if they are facing the right way.
  • There are a lot of steps when it comes to dressing, so don’t expect your child to learn all of them at once. Separate the steps in your own mind and have your child first learn to do just one part of a task, such as putting on pants. Begin by having your child do only the last part of the task: pulling the pants up after you’ve already helped put their feet through the legs of the pants. Once this step is mastered, try the next step—putting feet into the legs—and, finally, start by holding the pants facing the right way in order to step into them. If you work backward in this manner, the reward of successfully completing the task each time your child tries.

Looking Ahead to Shoelaces

Many children don’t learn to tie their shoes until they are in kindergarten or beyond. Your preschooler may not be ready for shoe tying, yet. If your child expresses interest, you might find it easier to teach using two loops. After tying the initial knot, make a loop with each end of the shoelaces, cross them over, and tie a simple knot.