Montessori Practical Life Lesson: Buttoning

Another fabulous Montessori Practical Life Lesson from Beth Holley.

Today, we are discussing the Montessori Button Dressing Frame lesson.

Montessori Practical Life Lesson: the Buttoning Frame - teach your child how to button with Montessori dressing frames

Today we’re introducing the Montessori dressing frames. In general, the Montessori practical life lessons fall into two broad categories: care of oneself and care of the environment. The dressing frames are an important set of materials for learning self care skills.

The dressing frames are a set of wooden frames with two pieces of cloth or leather attached to the sides, which can be fastened together at the center. Each frame features a different fastening device: large and small buttons, snaps, zipper, buckles, hooks and eyes, laces for tying bows, laces for crisscross lacing, and safety pins.

The frames embody an important Montessori principle: isolation of the difficulty. No matter what skill you are working on with your child, you can break it into its parts and isolate the most difficult stage. Dressing oneself may require buttoning a shirt, tying one’s shoes, or zipping a coat.

The frames isolate the skill apart from one’s body, and once mastered, translate to an easier time in fastening clothing while wearing it.

My plan is to present one frame at a time, because each has its own method and points of interest. So let’s get started with large buttons, which is traditionally the first frame presented in a Montessori classroom.

Montessori Practical Life Lesson - Teach Your Child How to do up buttons with the Montessori button dressing frame

How to Present Buttoning with the Montessori Button Frame


  • Direct: to develop the finger control and dexterity to manipulate buttons.
  • Indirect: independence and concentration.

Material: a Montessori large button frame (Many different suppliers carry a large button frame; it’s worth shopping around for a good price on the frames. Or you can make your own frames.)

Age: 2 1/2 – 4


1. Show the child how to carry the frame to the table, grasping it with both hands, one on each side.

2. Place the frame on the table and sit down.

3. Begin with unbuttoning the frame. Let’s assume the holes are on the left flap and the buttons are on the right flap. Using your right thumb and forefinger, grasp the top fabric beside the first button.

4. Using your left thumb and forefinger, tilt the button into the hole; now push the button all the way through with your index finger.

5. Repeat with all the buttons top to bottom; then open both flaps to show that the fabric is all the way unfastened.

6. Close the flaps.

7. Now show buttoning: using your left thumb and forefinger, grasp the top fabric at the first hole, bending it slightly back to show the underside of the hole.

8. Using your other thumb and forefinger, push the button into the hole. Pull all the way through from the other side.

9. Repeat with all buttons top to bottom, then invite the child to try.

Points of Interest:

  • Does the child match the two sides of cloth evenly, with a button for every hole? (Though great fun, some of the creative alternatives to the button frame–such as button snakes–don’t require a vertical one-to-one match up of button and hole; that may be one reason to present the traditional frame and offer alternatives for fun and variety.)
  • Does she tilt the button into the hole?
  • Does she carry the frame properly?

Note: Always start at the top. Small buttons take more control to manipulate; thus we present the small button frame after the child has mastered the large button frame. The same steps are followed in presenting the small button frame.


To learn more about Montessori theory, please visit Beth’s blog A Montessori Lexicon, and you can find her on Teachers Pay Teachers.

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  1. Having read through your practical life steps, its glaring that even a lay man can give the lesson with the simplicity of expressions.

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