Did you know that your jar of random buttons can provide hours of educational fun for young kids?
There are so many ways to use buttons in activities and most of them are simple and easy to implement at home or at school.
From thinking games and art activities, to teaching kids skills such as grouping, matching and ordering, buttons can be used in multiple ways to provide learning experiences.
Here are some fun button activities for preschoolers.
1. Messy Play Tray
Get your kids involved in some messy play by adding buttons to a large plastic tray filled with water. Add tools such as small shovels, spoons, soup ladles and sifters for kids to explore.
As a variation, try adding other materials such as sand, flour, rice, salt, pastas, Legos, dry cereal, bottle caps, etc.
2. Make a Name Plate
Teach your child to write their name with pre-writing activities, long before introducing forming letters with a pencil.
To make a button nameplate, outline your child’s name in big letters in liquid glue onto a piece of coloured cardboard.
Let your child trace along the letters by sticking the buttons onto the glue.
Older children can try forming their own name with the buttons and then gluing each one at a time – an activity that will require much concentration and fine motor control.
3. Matching Buttons
Matching is one of the basic cognitive skills that children need to learn in early childhood and it is a [part of developing visual perception.
Matching means finding something that is the same. It teaches children the concepts of same and different.
Place a few pairs of matching buttons on the table and mix them up. Challenge kids to find each button’s matching partner.
4. Sorting Buttons
Sorting means grouping items that share a common property – such as type, colour, size or material. These objects may look different but share a characteristic.
Grouping is different to pairing because it is sorting items into groups of more than two.
Provide a few buttons and ask children to group the ones that belong together. Your kids will learn that there is usually more than one way to group items.
They may sort the buttons by colour (especially younger children), shape, material (plastic, metal and fabric) or any other criteria.
5. Ordering Buttons
Teach the skill of seriation by ordering buttons in a row, according to size, from smallest to biggest.
For younger children use 3 or 4 buttons with large differences in size. For older children, use more buttons.
6. Button Necklace
Making a button necklace is a good way to practise threading. Children need a great deal of small motor skill to be able to thread objects.
The holes in the buttons are smaller, making it a challenging task. A button necklace, when threaded correctly is a pretty accessory to wear.
Give your child lots of time to practise and get older children to thread through two holes in each button to make the beads sit neatly next to each other on the necklace.
7. Make a Collage
For this art activity, provide paper (or cardboard), liquid glue and buttons.
Let kids make a collage by gluing the buttons onto the paper in whatever patterns and shapes they’d like.
In process art, the focus is always on the educational, creative experience of doing the activity and not on the end product.
8. Sand Play
A fun sensory experience, hide buttons in the sandpit or in a tray of sand and let your child search for them.
Use spades and a sieve to sift them out of the sand. Discovering the properties of materials and how they change form is a good early science experience.
9. Make Patterns
Learning about patterns is an important part of being able to read and is also an early maths concept.
Make simple patterns with the buttons and challenge your child to follow them.
For younger children, start with simple patterns such as:
- Red button, yellow button, red button, yellow button
- Big button, small button, big button, small button
For older children, mix it up and make it challenging:
- Red button, blue button, pink button, repeat
- Two red buttons, 1 yellow button, repeat
- Two big buttons, one small button, repeat
10. Play Dress Up
Give your children lots of opportunities to learn how to fasten buttons on clothes by having some buttoned shirts available when they are playing dress-up. Offer small clothes with buttons to dress dolls.
Encourage your children to dress themselves in the morning and help them learn to tie their own shoelaces, do up zips and fasten buttons. They will love gaining independence.
This is an intricate skill that will help develop fine motor coordination.
When your kids play with playdough, offer them buttons to add to it. These can become a part of symbolic play (sweets on a playdough birthday cake) or simply be used creatively.
Here is a recipe for homemade playdough without cream of tartar.
12. Fine Motor Fun
Turn a sorting or grouping activity into a fine motor activity by using tweezers to pick up the buttons.
Sort them into an ice-cube tray or an empty egg carton.
13. Play Odd One Out
Play the Odd One Out Game by making a row of about 4 or 5 buttons and asking your child to identify which button is the odd one out.
There are two skills here – identifying an object that doesn’t share a common characteristic with the others and being able to verbalize why the button is the odd one out.
To teach your child to verbalize this, ask “What’s the rule?” Your child should then be able to say “They should be red” or “They should be round”, to make it easier to explain why the blue button, or the square button, does not fit.
It is not always easy for a young child to put into words something that they may understand intuitively, such as a button that looks obviously different to them.
Make this more challenging for older children by adding an odd button to the group that has a different number of holes, or is made from a different material.
Make a simple game of bingo by drawing up some number cards using only the numbers 1 to 6 on them (repeated several times). Provide a tub of buttons for covering numbers.
Then, roll a die and get your child to place a button over all the 3s they can find (or whatever number you roll).
15. Make Puppets
There are many benefits to playing with puppets and they are also so easy to make.
Buttons will come in handy for several types of puppets – like sock puppets, paper bag puppets and glove puppets.
Stick them on with liquid glue to make eyes or use a needle and thread to teach kids to sew them on.
Teaching your kids to count with hands-on activities is much more effective than simply practising rote counting.
Counting buttons will help a child to develop their understanding of one-to-one correspondence and learn early maths concepts such as division (sharing out), size and patterns.
Instead of just counting with no purpose, keep your child engaged by counting for a reason. For example, count out how many buttons of each colour you will need before making a necklace, or share a group of buttons equally for an activity.
17. Play Button, Button, Who’s Got the Button
This game is best played in a group. Sitting in a circle, get everyone to close their eyes. Give one child a button and send him around the circle, pretending to place the button in each child’s hands.
The child must put the button in one person’s hands. Then, everyone opens their eyes and tries to guess who has the button.
I hope you’ve enjoyed these ideas for preschool button activities. Here are some more fun indoor and outdoor group games for preschoolers.