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Fasteners and zips

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.

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