It’s important for kids to learn how to dress themselves. Once your child can put their coat on by themselves, the next logical step is working on fastenings. Below, you’ll learn about how to teach a child to zip their coat, including helpful strategies you can use and when you can expect your child to learn this skill.
Are They Ready?
Even though zipping a jacket is something most people rarely think about when they do it, zipping a jacket requires a specific skill set to get the job done. Some of the skills your child needs to zip their coat includes:
- Pinching strength using their thumb and forefinger
- The tripod grasp
- Bilateral coordination
- Ability to rotate palm upward
- Hand-eye coordination
- Finger isolation
Some ways to test your child’s ability to develop this skill is by having them string beads. A child ready to learn how to zip their coat should be able to string three toddler-sized beads or a single small bead. Putting objects in a small container also helps showcase some of the skills your child needs to zip up a jacket.
Pique Their Interest in Zippers
Even though a zipper seems like a simple thing, it actually has several pieces that work together. Children are naturally curious, so it can help to get them interested in the zipper. Take a jacket that isn’t being worn and lay it on the table. The three primary pieces of a zipper are the zipper pull, zipper tongue, and zipper teeth.
As you explain each piece and what they do, show your child how they work together. Tell them that the zipper pull is the piece attached to the zipper tongue. The pull is the piece they use to move the zipper and down their jacket. The zipper tongue is the piece of the zipper that connects to the zipper teeth. When the tongue isn’t threaded correctly, the jacket sometimes misaligns and they won’t be able to zip their jacket properly. The zipper teeth are the bumpy pieces that go from the top to the bottom of the jacket. This can also be looked at as a type of track that a zipper follows like a train.
In addition to describing the way that a zipper works and showing your child, make the learning process fun. There are a lot of different books, videos, and other media that encourage your child to learn. Reinforcing the idea in different ways makes it easier for your child to understand how to use a zipper themselves.
Have Them Practice
The hardest part of teaching your child to zip their coat is threading the zipper. Instead, have them learn to pull the zipper up and down first. Starting with this easier task is a great way to help your child build confidence and encourage them to keep working on the skill until they get it right.
The easiest way to do this is to thread your child’s zipper for them and then encourage them to zip themselves. Another way to practice zipping early on is to use learning tools and toys. For example, the Melissa & Doug Dress-Up Bear soft book or the Buckle Toys Busy Board let your child work on clasps, buttons, zippers, and even tying shoes.
Smooth the Front of Their Jacket
It’s easy for a zipper to get wavy or lumpy, which makes it a lot harder to thread and zip the zipper. Once your child is ready to start practicing zipping up their own jacket, be sure they smooth the front of their coat first. This makes the zipper track easier to follow. It will also make the bottom of the jacket easier to see as your child tries to thread the zipper.
Make Them Aware of Risks
While zippers are a great way to get a jacket closed, they can also be a little dangerous if your child isn’t careful. It’s all too easy for skin to get zipped up in the jacket if it is too close to the zipper tongue and teeth. Not only can this sharp pinch be incredibly painful, but it may also tear skin and discourage your little one from wanting to try zipping in the future.
One advantage of practicing zipping with a jacket rather than a set of pajamas is that your child is more than likely wearing a shirt underneath. This makes it less likely that they’ll zip any skin up until they get to the exposed area of their neck and chin.
One thing that is helpful is having your child zip up a little over halfway first. Then, they should pause and pull the jacket out away from their skin before zipping it up more to prevent any accidents.
Practice with Them
It can be very helpful for your child to watch as you zip your own jacket. Get in the habit of explaining what you are doing (and use the right terminology). For example, you might say, “First, I’m going to put my jacket on and make sure the zipper is at the bottom of the track. Now, I’m putting the zipper tongue on the zipper teeth. Next, I’m going to use the zipper pull to zip up my jacket.”
Of course, while it is a good idea to practice zipping whenever you can, you shouldn’t rush your child to try to zip while you are on the way out the door. If you are in a rush, it easily comes across as frustration. If your child isn’t ready to zip on their own yet, you can always explain the steps, encourage them to try, and then zip them up yourself if you have to go. Just be sure to communicate how happy you are that they gave it a shot.
Always Cheer Them On
Confidence is a major factor in learning new skills. When a person is confident, they are able to overcome the fear or intimidation that might come with learning something new. Additionally, if they don’t get it on the first try, having confidence gives them the courage to try again, whether it results in success or failure. Not only is this important for learning new skills like zipping a jacket, but confidence is also something that improves your child’s ability to try new things throughout their life.
Caregivers can easily build a child’s confidence by cheering them on as they learn new things. Get in the habit of telling your child that you’re proud of them for trying a new skill- regardless of the outcome. You can build your child’s confidence in zipping coats by being enthusiastic as they try, even if they don’t get it right away. You should cheer them on, clap, and express your excitement as they learn to put on their coat themselves, learn to zip it, and then learn how to thread their zipper on their own. Giving this same encouragement as they learn other skills will help with confidence building, too.
Know When to Take a Break
When you teach your child how to tie their shoes or other important skills, it can be overwhelming if you do too much too fast. Additionally, if you try to force your child to keep working at a skill when they are frustrated, it creates a negative experience and emotions around learning that skill. This leads to further frustration in the future, for you and your child.
If your child seems to be getting overly frustrated, take a break from practicing for a while. Give them the chance to do something else and relax a little. In addition to preventing too much frustration, this lets your child calm down. It will be easier for them to focus on the steps of zipping a jacket if they are calm, rather than upset.
You should also take a step back if you are getting frustrated. Children are very sensitive to the emotions of people around them, so this may make them frustrated as well.
RELATED: How to Teach a Child to Knit
Have Them Practice on Someone Else
For some kids, it’s a little harder to do their own zipper. Not only is it harder for your child to see the zipper when the coat is already on their body, but it also makes the zipper teeth curve more instead of lying flat. Instead, you might have better luck having your child practice on someone else. You can let them do your zipper, and then you can do theirs. They can also practice on other siblings or using one of the zipper learning boards that were mentioned earlier.
Diagnosing Common Problems
If you’ve tried everything and your child is still struggling, consider which part of the process they are having problems with.
Some kids might have trouble grasping the zipper and pulling it up. If this is the problem, you can try attaching a key ring or a piece of ribbon to the end of their zipper pull. This might make it a lot easier for your child to move the zipper up and down the row of teeth.
If your child is having trouble threading the zipper, it might be helpful to let them try with the jacket off their body. It can be hard for a child to bend forward and try to see their zipper, especially when they are focusing on threading the zipper through the teeth. Additionally, your child’s jacket might not lay flat against their body, which can make threading the zipper harder. If your child can pull something over their head, they might also have luck threading the zipper a little bit, then putting the jacket on and zipping it up the rest of the way.
FAQs – How to Teach a Child to Zip Their Coat
How old should my child be to learn how to zip their coat?
Most children learn to zip their coats around 5-6 years of age. While they may learn to do this sooner, there are many skills your child needs to develop first to be able to grasp the zipper and pull it up. They’ll also need additional skills to thread the zipper to completely do the task on their own.
Is it important for my child to learn how to zip their coat?
Yes, it is important for your child to learn to zip their coat. Being able to dress themselves is a major milestone in your child’s independence. It also is a great way for your child to develop their fine motor skills more, as they work with their hands. Another major benefit is that your child’s teacher will appreciate having one less child they need to zip up before dismissal in the wintertime. For parents with more than one kid, you’ll appreciate this, too.
When should my child be able to put their own coat on?
Most children should be able to put their coats on by themselves around 3-4 years old. While it’s likely your child won’t be able to do the buttons, zippers, or other fastenings themselves yet, being able to put their coat on is the first step.
If your child is struggling with getting a jacket on, it’s best to practice taking it off first. You can also help them by using a bigger, looser fitting jacket and practicing with the sleeves of other clothing (like shirts and pajama tops), too. Some parents have also had luck with the Montessori method, or the Montessori coat flip.
While no parent wants to think about their baby growing up, learning how to dress themselves is important as your child becomes more independent. With these strategies on how to teach a child to zip their coat, your child should be zipping themselves in no time at all. Best of luck!