By Sandy Bacon

What’s the big deal about a zipper?

Although it may not be something you have thought too much about, a difficult zipper can really frustrate our students and prevent them from becoming independent with putting on a coat.

Zippers can come in a variety of styles, sizes and materials. Some zippers have very big, chunky teeth and others are sleek and tiny. Zippers can operate from the right side or the left. Special outdoor jacket zippers separate in order to open and close at the same time! (That’s confusing!) Zipper pulls can be flip-floppy and hard to control or very thin and elusively slippery. Some zippers hide behind hems of thick fabric and become impossible to insert. Occasionally, zippers have a twin, one inside the other. In addition, very long coats present more difficulty as the operator has to bend over quite far to reach the zipper and can have difficulty with maintaining balance or focus in order to connect the zipper.

How does one pick an easy-to-operate zipper? A strong start to determining selection is to note what hand is the preferred hand. Is the operator a righty or a lefty? Once this question is answered, look to see if the zipper pull is on the right or left. Usually a righty will want to pull with the right hand and a lefty will want to pull with the left hand. Only after zippers become second nature will either side do the job. Once the side is determined, choose a simple sturdy zipper with a pull that is thicker and larger than ½ inch in length. Avoid twin zippers (a double zipper inside the main zipper) and separating zippers! Plastic zippers can be easier to glide unless they are very chunky. The bulk tends to prevent good gliding and the zipper can fold on itself. A great feature to look for, but hard to find is a zipper that has been seated in a stiff hem and allows the operator to hold the material at the bottom of the coat without the zipper flopping around. Several outdoor companies are mindful of this bonus feature. Other features that boost success are a zipper cord or length of material attached to zipper (known as a zipper pull), bright or contrasting colors and a well exposed zipper that is not overwhelmed by the bulk of the material.

The next time you are looking for a coat for your child, take a second to look at and operate the zipper. The easier it inserts, slides and glides, the more likely your child will learn to manage it.

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