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How to fasten buttons

Start by practicing fine motor skills and bilateral activities

For your child to complete small fiddly tasks such as fastening and undoing buttons, they will find it helpful to practice fine motor skills and bilateral activities.

See our guides below for strategies and activities to help your child develop these skills.

Fine motor skills guides

Bilateral activities guides

Initial activities to help your child

Tear paper

Encourage your child to start with thumbs on top of the paper with one hand pulling towards them and the other pushing away.

Hide buttons or beads in Play-Doh or theraputty

Ask your child to find them. Encourage them to use their pincer grasp to pull and tear the putty.

Practice threading beads and buttons onto pipe cleaners

Ensuring your child steadies the pipe cleaner with one hand and manipulates the bead/button with the other. Progress onto using lace.

Post coins or large buttons into a slot

Use a Tupperware or takeaway tub with a slot cut out of the lid (does not need to be neat).  Progress on to smaller buttons and smaller slots made from cardboard.

Button practice activities

Post loose buttons through different sized buttons holes.

Button snake

Attach a button to a long piece of elastic, cut felt into different shapes/sizes and fashion a buttonhole. Encourage your child to put the button through each hole to collect the felt along the elastic. Then try it backwards. If your child struggles forwards, try it backwards first.

Use the back of a chair

Put a garment over the back of a chair and encourage your child to try and do up the buttons. Start with larger buttons and buttonholes and work your way to smaller ones.

Progress to try buttons on a garment on your child.

Button practice strategies

You can:

  • start with larger buttons and progress to smaller ones
  • use contrasting colours between buttons and the material. Toggles might be good to start with.
  • limit the number of buttons our child does to prevent frustration and keep motivation.
  • start with the buttons at the bottom of a garment.
  • try forward chaining where your child starts the task and you finish it. Your child puts the button into the buttonhole and you pull it through. Your child needs to be well motivated for this method
  • try the backward chaining method – you put the button halfway through the hole and your child pulls it through the other side.