Getting Dressed: Teaching Zips, Buttons, and Laces

Learning zips, buttons, and getting dressed header image

Learning zips, buttons, and laces is important to your child’s development. Getting dressed and dressing is one of the most integral parts of early development as it promotes self-confidence, independence and fine-motor skills. To help your little one learn how to dress, we’ve put together a quick guide. 

Why is dressing so hard?

First things first, dressing is a complex skill that takes plenty of practice. Most of us have years of experience dressing and are used to doing it unconsciously. We take things like motor skills, coordination, balance, perception, stereognosis, and body schema for granted. These abilities allow us to differentiate right from left, dress without sight, and understand the relative size of clothes to our bodies. Young children have to learn all of this. Luckily, if there is one thing children are it’s determined to do it themselves.


According to the NHS, there are a few milestones to aim for in clothing development:

  • 12 months – Your child should be able to help you as you dress them. This means pushing arms and legs through sleeves and trousers. 
  • 24 months – Your child should be able to remove an unfastened jacket
  • 30 months – Your child should be able to put on a jacket or open shirt without buttoning or zipping
  • 36 months – Your child should be able to help with zips and buttons
  • 48 months – Your child should be able to get dressed independently but may require some assistance with buttons, zips, and laces for another year or so.

Learning to get dressed

General Guidelines

Learning this skill requires a bit of practice so it’s best to make sure you and your child are in the best place to do so. Firstly, ensure your child is sitting in a stable position so they can focus on their motor skills without worrying about balance. Your kids can also practice getting dressed while standing by leaning against a wall while putting on jackets, shoes etc. 

Start with undressing as this is often easier to pick up. Once your child can master one, they’ll be more confident to try dressing. Talk to them and show them how to manipulate material, buttons, and zips. Try practice with loose-fitting clothing and articles that are easy to grip. You can even roll up sleeves and trouser bottoms to create easy-to-use handles for little hands to grab ahold. 

Finally, make sure you practice putting on and taking off clothes in order. This way your child will learn that pants have to go before trousers and so on. 

Games and Exercises

Reverse linking exercises

Reverse linking is a simple process whereby you start by doing all of the dressing and then slowly leave more up to your child. For example, when taking off a jacket, you could start by removing everything except the last sleeve. Ask your child to remove the sleeve, themselves. Once comfortable with this you can move on to leaving more of the process for them to do. 

Busy Boards and Learning Boards

These toys are great for practising motor skills. You can make them yourself or find toys online. These boards are packed with zips, buttons, clasps, and various types of material. Give your little one a busy board and leave them to explore and learn. Children often learn through self-teaching and it’s important to give them space to practice and learn on their own. 

Learning to get dressed with a busy board


There are countless songs for learning how to tie shoes and work with buttons on the internet. A quick search on Youtube and you’ll no doubt find a catchy tune to reinforce the lesson. 

Finally, it’s worth remembering that everyone develops at their own speed. Help your little one out but also give them time to it out on their own. We’ve found some great resources from the NHS to help you and your child work through this lesson together. 

We love helping children learn and grow at Stepping Stones Day Nursery. If you are interested in enrolling your child or would like to know more about our school, then please contact us. Our team of educators is on hand to answer any questions you may have. 

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