Buttons, snaps, zippers, Oh My!
By Tina Anderson, OTR
Walking through any typical department store I’ve noticed that there are few options for button or snap closure fashions for children. As part of my pediatric evaluation I assess the child’s ability to perform self-help tasks which includes unfastening and fastening buttons, snaps zippers and lacing. Occasionally, I encounter children who fail when tested on certain test items due to lack of exposure to these experiences.
When it comes to clothing, I recall a time when button up shirts and lace and tie shoes were more commonly worn among children, and therapists were seeking adaptive dressing options available without specialized pricing. Now, Velcro shoes are more widely found and often selected for children who could potentially tie their own shoes. Pull-over shirts, elastic waist pants and Velcro shoes can help young children to develop a sense of autonomy. This autonomy can ease the stress of transitions to school or to bed.
Children as young as age 3 can button 3-4 buttons, manage a joined zipper. By age 4 years a child is expected to lace and tie shoes, buckle a belt, and zip a jacket. Children vary in regard to how long it takes them to meet these milestones, and by age 5, they should be dressing independently.
Providing your child with daily exposure to these challenges supports their development of fine motor skills which include pencil grasp, and visual motor skills. If your life is too hectic, begin training for these skills on a weekend or during a vacation. The time you spend focusing on these skills will be well worth it.