Teaching children to button is easy and straightforward, but is a skill that is often overlooked.
Over the years I have taught hundreds of children to button, including many with significant disabilities. You can teach your children to button too, by following this simple developmental sequence. If buttoning seems overwhelming to your child or student, start with the step below their current skill level and spend a couple minutes daily to practice 2 or 3 steps to build confidence. Once a child has mastered a skill level, keep practicing that step and gently introduce the next level.
Learning to Button
- Place large and small disks through rigid slots. This can be a one-handed skill, but the child should be able to adjust the orientation of the disk to meet the orientation of the slot. Be sure to challenge the child by shifting the slot.
- Push large and small disks through rigid slots again, but this time the child holds the slotted material. A plastic lid with a hole cut out works really well. Set up the task so that the child picks up the disk (button) with one hand and catches the disk on the other side of the slot with the other hand. Putting out a container to receive the finished disks helps to make that clear. You can see this procedure in the video below. If the disk is dropped I move that disk back to the to-do pile to try again.
- Give the child a small piece of cloth, or felt, with one hole or slot. Have them put a few buttons through the one piece of fabric. In this 12 second video, you can see all the skills that this child has mastered.
a. He starts by holding the cloth with his non-dominant hand.
b. Using his dominant hand, he starts to slide the button through the slot.
c. He shifts his hands so that he can continue holding the cloth and is able to pull the button out of the slot with his other hand.
- Now your child is ready to slide the button through a fabric slot, while it is attached to the second piece of fabric. In nothing flat, your child has learned to button!
Learning to Unbutton
Next, it’s time to unbutton. Ask the child to “take them apart.” Once they have learned to button, unbuttoning is easily accomplished starting with this single button attached to its own cloth.
Children can be intimidated by buttoning, especially if they’ve tried it and were unsuccessful in the past. This simple method helps small children get over the buttoning hurdle and enjoy learning to button!
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