Tutorial: Upcycled Button Sorting Toy

Recycled Button Toy

Recycled Button Toy

This DIY sorting toy is easily made with whatever you have around the house, and is also educational as your child works on fine motor skills and beginning math skills like sorting and counting.

Button Sorting Toy
Atti’s last Occupational Therapist was spending a lot of time getting Atti to use his little uncooperative fingers to work buttons. It’s one of those life skill things you don’t even think about until you can’t do it and someone always has to help you get dressed. She had him playing Connect 4, putting coins in a piggy bank, and buttons through a slot in a toy that looked very much like this one, just, not made out of garbage. Even if your fingers work, sorting and counting are early math skills that every child has to learn, so this toy will be helpful for every little kid, no matter what their abilities are.

And, since I’m a big hippie at heart, I love the chance to recycle a bit of garbage into something that will be both educational and fun for Atti. It’s like the world’s most virtuous project.

I made a large version out of an old apple juice container, but I really love this smaller version made out of a plastic single serving juice container. Wash the bottle thoroughly and remove any labels. Nail polish remover is really helpful here. Using an exacto knife, cut slots for the buttons to fit through. I just used a pencil to trace a few buttons of different sizes and then squared the holes off as I was cutting them. To make sure that no little fingers get cut on sharp plastic, I melted the edges of each hole by holding a match nearby it until it was smooth.

Upcycled Button Sorting Toy
In part to make it look like more than a juice bottle and in part to help Atti distinguish the holes, especially on the clear version, I used paint pens to trace each hole. This can become part of the game. If you’re teaching your child to sort and follow complex directions, just direct them to put all the white buttons in the green hole, or what have you. I also made the holes different sizes so we could sort the buttons by size. And if all that fails, it makes a delightful noise when he shakes it.