The development of children's buttoning ability
Young children’s adaptive behaviors, particularly those relating to self-care skills (e.g., independent dressing), are markers for school-readiness. Yet little is known about how self-care skills develop or how children’s ability to perform self-care skills can be facilitated. We conducted two studies to examine how children learn to button (Study 1) and how clothing design may inhibit or promote children’s buttoning ability (Study 2). In Study 1, we asked 48 children, ages 5- to 7-years-old, to button shirts with both small and large buttons in varying spatial locations (on themselves, on stuffed animals placed across from them, on stuffed animals placed in their laps). Results showed a developmental progression whereby children became more effective and efficient when buttoning on themselves than buttoning on another. We also found that large buttons were easier for children to manage than small buttons. However, when we conducted an environmental scan of children’s clothing in department stores (Study 2), we found that children’s shirts most often have small buttons. This suggests that clothing may not be designed in a way that would promote independent dressing. Collectively, our results provide important insights into the ways in which the design of daily artifacts can be tailored to children’s developing abilities.