Learning How to Use Buttons, Snaps, Zippers, and Buckles Through Play

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One of the more challenging skills to learn as far as fine motor skills are concerned is something most of us probably do daily. For children, learning how to use buttons, snaps, zippers, and buckles can be a huge learning curve. But that is where learning through play can be a huge help to them.

Learning how to use buttons, snaps, zippers, and buckles through play.

Learning How to Use Buttons, Snaps, Zippers, and Buckles Through Play

In the Montessori method that I also use with my children, these activities are often referred to as practical life skills. In Occupational Therapy we refer to them as Activities of Daily Living or ADLs. They really both mean the same thing.

There are so many great ways to encourage the skills needed for using buttons, snaps, zippers, and buckles in just everyday fun activities. It doesn't even need to be an activity that uses any of these items, as long as you are encouraging the use of specific skills children need in order to develop these important care of self skills.

So what skills does your child need in order to learn how to use buttons, snaps, zippers, or buckles?

  • Bilateral Coordination (using both sides of the body, or in this case hands, together)
  • Visual-Motor Skills (includes visual discrimination, eye-hand coordination, and tracking)
  • Fine motor skills (specifically finger dexterity, pincer grasp,
  • Motor Planning (being able to complete the activity from beginning to end in the correct sequence)

Any type of play activity that works with the skills above will help your child master these important activities of daily living (or practical life) skills.

Here are some fun ideas for each to get you started.

Play Activities to Work on Activities of Daily Living

These are some fun play or activity ideas that will help to improve all the skills needed for learning how to button, snap, zip, and buckle.

  • Stringing beads (small, medium, or large beads depending on your child's age)
  • Using scissors (holding the scissors with one hand, holding the paper with the other)
  • Lacing cards
  • Pealing Stickers
  • Thread buttons
  • Use clothes pins to pick up objects
  • Use fine motor tweezers or tongs
  • Use a hole punch to cut out designs
  • Make a button snake (links to tutorials below)

There are also many fun products out there that can encourage your child to practice these ADLs. Some of them include:

Learning how to use buttons, snaps, zippers, and buckles through play.

Here are some fun activities from other bloggers:

Functional Skills for Kids : a 12 month blog series by OTs and PTs.

Be sure to check out all the other blog posts in this month's Functional Skills for Kids series on buttons, snaps, zippers, and buckles.

Clothing Fasteners and Gross Motor Skill Development | Your Therapy Source Inc

How to Adapt Buttoning and Zipping for Your Child   | Miss Jaime OT

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

Follow Heather | Growing Hands-On Kids's board Occupational Therapy Tips on Pinterest.

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Heather Greutman, COTA

Heather Greutman is a Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant with experience in school-based OT services for preschool through high school. She uses her background to share child development tips, tools, and strategies for parents, educators, and therapists. She is the author of many ebooks including The Basics of Fine Motor Skills, and Basics of Pre-Writing Skills, and co-author of Sensory Processing Explained: A Handbook for Parents and Educators.

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  1. I love how you tied in bilateral coordination toys and hand strengthening activities. These are so important in developing the foundational skills for learning to dress. Will be sharing!

  2. I definitely find that the “bilateral” component of fastenings the hardest aspect for kids to learn. Lots of great suggested play activities here!

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