With the arrival of cold weather comes the additional pressure to get out the door with coats, hats, mittens, etc.  Soon, it will also involve snow pants and boots (brrr…).  With our winter clothes comes the challenge for some children of learning their fasteners so they can get out the door more efficiently.  Occupational Therapists often work with children to learn how to put on coats, boots and snow pants and such because there is a lot of gross motor (large muscle) skill, fine motor (small muscle) skill, motor planning (sending the message from the brain to the body), and bilateral coordination (using two hands together) involved with dressing for the weather.  As adults, we forget how challenging attaining these skills can really be.

Like any new skill, some children won’t just “pick up” on what needs to happen without explicit instruction and support, so their adults will need to spend some dedicated time with them to work on targeting specific skills.  The Occupational Therapy blogger, Cindy, at YourKidsOT.com has such great suggestions on how to support learning these skills, we are copying them down for you here because these are tips occupational therapists use all the time!  

  1. Modeling – Demonstrate the steps involved by showing your child each step, describing it as you go.
  2. Verbal Prompts –  Use clear and consistent verbal prompts to correspond with each step.  Shorten prompts to just the verb involved. For example: “Pinch and push”. 
  3. Backwards Chaining – This means that you teach your child the last step first.  It is a great way to encourage success for your child.  Keep each step brief and this will help with attention too!  As your child becomes successful, add another step in the chain from the end of the task. 
  4. Hand over Hand assistance – Sometimes modeling is not enough to enable your child to understand what to do.  Put your hand over their hands and gently show them with physical assistance how to manage the step involved. 
  5. Visual Photo Sequence – Some children benefit from going over the sequence of steps using photographs or line drawings.  These should be explained and looked at several times.  (Our addition – search YouTube videos too!)
  6. Choose the Right Time –  Choose a time where the pressure of time is absent.  Practice school related fastenings in the holidays before school starts or on the weekend.  (Our addition – set a maximum limit too – don’t let a frustrating task go on too long or it will become something else.  After a certain amount of time, no one is learning, they are only getting more frustrated.)
  7. Practice Practice Practice – Practice makes perfect! (We prefer practice makes PROGRESS)
  • Start with the fastener NOT on your child. For example: start with a jacket on a chair in front of your child.  (or a shoe in a lap, not on a foot)
  • Practice with large fasteners before smaller ones.  These are easier to manipulate and will promote success. 
  • Practice skills with the correct orientation. It is important for children to learn the movement involved in managing fastenings (ie. kinesthetic movement) and feel where their body is in space in relation to the object they are manipulating (spatial awareness).  

    8.  Variety = Novelty – Use a variety of objects with fasteners to help with motivation and with generalization of the skill (eg. zipper on a jacket, bag, pencil case, tent, etc.). 

    9. Reinforce and reward – We would like our kids to have intrinsic motivation to manage fasteners independently! Many children do desire this independence and often “force” it upon their parents too early with “I can do it myself!”  

        Some children, however, are not so intrinsically motivated.  They stubbornly refuse to get dressed or insist on a parent helping them.  For these children praise and reward are important to encourage desirable behavior.  Often these kids benefit from a “backward chaining” approach discussed earlier.  Rewards may include verbal praise “Great job!” or “You did it!”.  The reward may include letting your child choose their preferred outfit to wear or a sticker. 

(original source: https://www.yourkidsot.com/blog/pinch-poke-snap-helping-kids-to-manage-buttons-zips-and-more)

Does your child struggle with managing outerwear or fasteners more than the average student?  Please talk to us in the Occupational Therapy (OT) department.  We want to help.  -Brianna and Bridget