Temperatures are beginning to drop, and it is almost time to zip up those jackets again! As parents, you may be wondering, “When should my child be able to zip and button his or her coat?”

Here are a few milestones to keep in mind:

Two‐and‐a‐half years

· Unbuttons a large button.

· Can put on easy clothing such as jackets or open‐front shirts without zipping or buttoning them.


Three Years

· Can button large front buttons.

· Able to zip and unzip a jacket if the shank is already connected.


Three‐and‐a‐half years

· Able to unzip a jacket and separate the shank.

· Is able to button three or four buttons.


Four Years

· Able to insert the shank together to zip up a jacket with practice.


What if my child is having trouble manipulating buttons or zippers?

Manipulating buttons and zippers are pretty complex activities that require your little one to use several skills all at once!  Both require good visual attention, which we know can be a challenge for A LOT of kids these days! Buttoning and zipping are multiple step tasks, requiring your little one to plan, sequence, and complete all the steps (also known as motor planning). Both tasks require coordinated movements of both hands while both hands perform separate tasks at the same time. Both tasks require a good pincer grasp to hold onto the button or zipper. If a child has difficulty with any of these individual skills, then they will have more difficulty buttoning and zipping. If you are not sure why your child is having difficulty or which of these skills is difficult for your child, talk to your pediatrician. It may be a good idea to contact an occupational therapist to help assess your child’s skills.

How can I help my child learn to manipulate buttons and zippers?

  • Children learn best through play based activities, so incorporate buttoning and zipping into play to reduce stress. Playing with dressing dolls, dressing up in Mommy or Daddy’s clothes, and dressing up as a doctor or dentists are a few of our favorite activities!
  • Start with larger buttons.
  • Start by unbuttoning buttons.
  • Start with buttoning or unbuttoning clothing in front of the child, in the child’s lap or on the table (or on your pajamas).
  • Practice pushing buttons through small holes of slotted containers, such as a Yeti cup drink top.
  • Have your child finish the last step of the task and, once mastered, slowly let him or her complete more of the task.
  • Have your child practice buttoning or zipping in front of a mirror when clothing is on your child.
Bryson Green obtained her Bachelor’s Degree from The Florida State University and Master’s Degrees in the areas of Kinesiology from the University of Georgia and Occupational Therapy from Brenau University. She has worked in the Autism research field and outpatient settings treating children ages newborn through 21 years with a variety of congenital and acquired diagnoses. She joined the staff of Building Bridges Therapy in 2016. Bryson has continued to improve her clinical skills by attending courses related to sensory processing, reflex integration, feeding, and vestibular disorders. Outside of work, Bryson enjoys spending time with her family, weekend getaways to the mountains, hiking, and browsing local shops.