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The Button Box

The Button Box is only suitable as a teaching tool for older children. Playing with buttons can help children with many things, but WARNING they are a choking hazard, so play must always be supervised. Children under the age of 3 should not be allowed to play with buttons.

Do you remember having a button box?

People of a certain age – did you play with buttons? I’m sure I did. I think the button box was my Mum’s, but I know that some of my friends can remember their granny or aunt or whoever having a button box.

I’m in the process of sorting out ALL of my craft stash. It’s cheaper than going shopping for more supplies. I get to handle, stroke, admire and gush over all my treasures, and I can get inspiration from some of the things I may have forgotten I had. So then when I do shop I only really have to consider glue and plain paper, etc. Well, that’s the theory anyway.

The latest items to receive this attention were in my “embellishments” box. There was a lot of rubbish in the box I had to sort through first. Many tiny scraps of paper I was hanging onto ‘just in case’. They would’ve been perfect if I wanted to make a mosaic 😂

After I’d cleared out the rubbish I set to work on finding all my buttons and sorting them out. It was such a therapeutic process that it made me think back to the button boxes of childhood.

I don’t think that children today are really given the chance to play with buttons in the same way we were, but it got me thinking that there’s a whole opportunity for learning right there in that box.

When I looked for suitable photos to go with this article, the search for ‘buttons’ brought up technological rather than haberdashery buttons. That’s the problem with this digital world. Oh dear, do I sound old?

A hand holding the buttons of a games console. The screen is showing a car racing game. The car on the screen is red. The photo has some light leak on the left.
Photo by John Sting on Unsplash

Using The Button Box as a Teaching Tool

Taking heed of the warning above then, and remembering that children under the age of three should not play with buttons, due to the choking hazard, let’s look at what a button box has to offer older children:

Physical development

Handling different sized buttons can help a child with their manual dexterity (fine motor skills), as they need to use the pincer movement to pick them up. Also, they can help with hand to eye co-ordination.

Maths & science

  • Learning to count
  • Use them to demonstrate simple sums
  • Use them to talk about comparisons; biggest, smallest, etc
  • Identifying and sorting colours, size, shape, etc
  • Do they float or sink?
  • Can you build a button tower?


They can help develop language skills as you can encourage your child to talk about the different buttons. You could start by asking which is their favourite, or ask them to find a certain shape or colour.

Games & Imaginary play

You can use buttons to replace missing counters in board games. And, does anyone remember using buttons as toy money?

Art & craft

Children can use buttons in many different crafts, such as sewing, making pictures, or stringing them together to make jewellery.

Life skills

Maybe the most important thing to teach is to do with their original purpose? So, don’t forget that older children can learn the important life skill of, how to sew on a button, because, I can guarantee they will need to know this one day!


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