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How to Teach a Child to Use Buttons

By Melinda Kedro ; Updated April 18, 2017
Learning to use buttons helps your child build fine-motor skills.

Learning to button and unbutton clothing can be a challenging skill that children must practice regularly before mastering. Organize simple and engaging activities for your child that will assist with strengthening his fine-motor development, eye-hand coordination and hand muscle growth. As your child grows older, provide a variety of toys and activities that incorporate the use of buttons.

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Preliminary Activities

Provide your child with ample opportunities to develop his fine-motor skills before expecting him to learn how to use buttons. Set up a tray in your kitchen with several small containers and an eye-dropper. Place several drops of food coloring into some water and pour the water into a container. Show your child how to squeeze the dropper to fill the tube of the dropper with the colored water. Then show him how to squeeze the dropper to transfer the liquid to another container. Allow your child to play with the activity on a regular basis to develop his pincer-grip skills.

Prepare a tray with child-sized tongs, a bowl of small objects such as craft pom poms or acrylic beads and a small ice-cube tray. Demonstrate to your child how to use the tongs to pick up one object at a time and place it into a compartment of the ice-cube tray. Leave this activity in an accessible area of your home for your child to play with at his own discretion. Using tongs will assist with her fine-motor development and muscle growth in her hands, which are necessary for success with buttoning.

Place a collection of large-holed beads and a lacing string into a basket or box. Be sure the string has a knot tied at the bottom so the beads will stay on when laced onto the string. Show your child how to guide the tip of the string through the hole of a bead and slide the bead down to the knot. Learning to lace beads onto a string will help your child develop coordination using two hands to complete a task. Leave this activity accessible for him to play with at will.

A Variety of Toys

Purchase toys and activities that feature buttons and button holes. Shop online or browse through toy stores that offer educational activities for children. Activity boards with various fasteners, dressing dolls and Montessori dressing frames are examples of engaging toys that will allow your child to practice his buttoning skills.

Make your own activities as a way to further encourage your child to practice her buttoning skills. Cut interesting shapes out of different colors of felt such as a leaf and a ladybug, a plate and a piece of food, a barn and a cow. Sew a button onto one object in the set of two. Cut a button hole in the other object in the set. Show your child how to fasten the ladybug onto the leaf, the piece of food onto the plate and the cow onto the barn using the button and button hole. Use the tip of your finger in the hole as a guide to show your child where to aim the button.

Stock your child's closet with several shirts and jackets that have buttons as fasteners. Encourage your child to button his own shirt or jacket when getting dressed. Plan ahead and allow extra time in the morning for dressing so your child can take his time with the buttons and not feel rushed. The more you allow your child to practice using buttons on his own, the easier time he will have developing the skill.

Things You Will Need

  • Trays
  • Eye-dropper
  • Water
  • Cups
  • Small bowls
  • Food coloring
  • Small tongs
  • Objects for tongs
  • Small ice-cube tray
  • Lacing string
  • Large-holed beads
  • Basket or box
  • Toys with buttons and button holes
  • Felt
  • Buttons
  • Needle and thread
  • Clothing with buttons
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About the Author

With more than 10 years experience in early childhood education, Melinda Kedro holds a Masters degree in education, teaching certification through the Association Montessori Internationale and is a licensed childcare provider through the Colorado Department of Human Services.

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