There are several activities I have used for years as part of my classroom routine. One of these tasks is buttons. Why buttons? Buttoning and unbuttoning requires the child to use many higher level skills. The child has to use both hands at one time, doing opposite things. The child has to use the ends of his fingers. The child as to problem solves and sequence. So many skills all wrapped up in one task.
As with all task, I have stages that I use to develop the skill of buttoning and buttoning.
First, I start with stringing beads of various size tubing, rope and yarn. Start with large 2 inch beads at around 18 months (do not let them put the beads in their mouth). Start with stiff tubing like aquarium tubing, then thick rope, then shoe laces.
By age 2, I have them push nickels through large button holes. The child moves the nickel from one box to a different box but first the coin has to go through the button-hole. This teaches the concept of “in the hole”. This task also requires the child to use two hands; one hand pushing the nickel into the hole and the other hand pulling the nickel out of the hole. Holding the fabric taunt helps this processes.
Around age 3, I love button buddies and button boards. I have included two web sites that provide excellent directions on how to make button buddies and button boards. Again, larger buttons are easier. Again emphasis the words “in the hole”.
Around age 4, I provide large button vests for the kids to work on. I start with the vest on the table and then have the child work with the vest on their own body. I have picked up several real cute button vests at 2nd hand stores. I often redo the button-hole, just a little to make it easier to push the buttons into and out of the holes. Holding the fabric taunt is a big help for the kids that struggle with this skill.
The next step is to have the child button on their body. For kids that are struggling with learning, practice is a necessity. Pick days that the child has more time and let them practice buttoning their own shirt. They do one, you do one. A child that buttons in school will learn the task for a day. The child that buttons at home is learning a life skill.