The Button Slide – A Fine Motor Activity

thebuttonslide_mylifewithlittlesWhat are Fine Motor Skills?  When we talk about fine motor skills, we are usually referring to a child’s movement of small muscles in their hands, fingers, and wrists. Examples of fine motor movement include: picking up and manipulating small objects, holding a crayon or feeding utensil, and buttoning/zipping a jacket.  Fine motor skills are an essential part of daily living activities such as dressing, feeding and playing. Research shows that along with attention and general knowledge, fine motor skills can also be a predictor of math, reading, and science success in school.

Try one of my FAVORITE fine motor activities: The Button Slide!

How does it work? Children practice buttoning skills by sliding pieces of different textured fabric over a button and down a long piece of ribbon.


  • Two buttons  (I chose large buttons, about 1″ wide. Smaller buttons can work too.)
  • One long piece of ribbon (Mine is about 2 ½ feet long.)
  • Needle and thread
  • Scissors
  • Fabric squares (at least 3×3”) I also used a few different colors/patterns of felt.

*Note: Before running out to the nearest craft store, see how many of these materials you have lying around your house. You can easily recycle old clothing, towels, and blankets for this project.


  • Step 1: Sew one button to each end of your ribbon. You want to be sure the buttons won’t come off when the little one pulls on them.
  • Step 2: Grab some fabric scraps. The more variety in color, pattern and texture, the better. Measure and cut squares at least 3×3” in size. Feel free to get creative and cut slightly larger squares, or even other shapes.
  • Step 3: Fold one fabric square in half and cut a slit about ¾ of an inch in length – when you open it, the slit will be about 1 ½ inches long.

*Tip: Test out your first square by inserting the button through the slit. This will give you an idea of how easy/difficult it will be for your child to thread the squares onto the ribbon. You don’t want the slit to be so short that they have too hard of a time getting the button through, but you also don’t want it to be so much wider than the button that it makes it too easy.

  • Step 4: Repeat step 3 with your remaining fabric squares.

And that’s it! In just a few short moments, you have created a fun fine motor activity.

Check out the extra benefits of the Button Slide:

  • It’s easy to store! You can store the fabric squares on the ribbon so you don’t lose track of them. Drop the button slide in a Ziploc bag and it is easily kept clean.
  • It’s quiet! You can easily take it with you as a quiet activity for your little one to do in waiting rooms and restaurants.
  • It can be a sensory experience! Using different types of fabric like denim, burlap, and wool are fun for your little ones to touch. This also promotes language if you talk about how each square looks and feels.
  • It promotes independence! Looking ahead to daily activities like dressing and potty training, this activity promotes the self-care independence your little one will need in school.

Parents, please remember:

Exposing your little one to activities that help them gain skills and independence is a wonderful thing. BUT keep in mind that children develop at their own pace. “The progression through the stages is more important than the age at which this happens. As long as kids are moving through the stages, it doesn’t matter if they get there slower than other kids.”  If you are ever concerned about your child’s progression or skill development, be sure to have a conversation with their pediatrician. If necessary, they can refer you to a qualified occupational therapist to further assess your little one’s development. In the meantime, just have fun!


I hope you enjoy this activity as much as we do. If you try it and and love it, please come back and share your success story, comments, or questions.

Thanks for reading!

8 thoughts on “The Button Slide – A Fine Motor Activity

  1. This is an awesome activity! One of my twins is a little behind in his fine motor skills, so I’m always looking for new activities he can do. This will be perfect. Thank you!


  2. This is great. I can still remember my mom letting me thread real buttons from her button tin onto a string. I loved it and I’m sure it held my attention and was good for building my hand-eye coordination. I like that felt/fabric is a safer option for little ones and won’t make as big of a mess as real buttons or beads.


  3. We used this when my son was little all the time for pincher practice and now he pretends it’s a snack, an alligator and my favorite, the geico from the Geico commercials 😉


  4. we had something like this when I was a little girl, in the 80s, but it was more accidental than planned. My mom did a lot of sewing, and I was obsessed with her button drawer. I’d always get in her way because I wanted to play with the buttons while she was sewing, so she’d sew the buttons onto chunks of fabric, sew button holes on other chunks of scrap fabric, and I’d sit there and very happily button and unbutton, button and unbutton, while she was sewing. I was playing with buttons and out of her hair.


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