Buckles: Fun and Effective Strategies to Manipulate Fasteners

Simulated Buckles 

Opening buckles is relatively easy- involving a series of bilateral pulling motions. However, closing buckles is a trickier skill, requiring greater eye-hand coordination and motor planning to move parts in and out. The following adaptation enables children to practice closing simulated "buckles" without the demand of tightening a belt to correctly fit the child's waist.

I cut the practice buckles out of detergent bottles to create the rounded buckle shapes. The piece shown in my left hand below is cut again to smooth the edges and shape. Cut 2 or more notches. Placing tape over the section where the end goes in and out creates color contrast. The extra large notches make learning easier than when using a real belt buckle.

The following video demonstrates how I made buckles out of a red coffee container. The white buckles were made by cutting around large, round plastic food or bleach containers. As you watch the video, you can see that some plastic containers are easier to cut than others! Experiment!

Smaller "buckles" can be used on ring stacks and larger ones can be used to play ring toss.

Practice In and Out Concepts

Children or older individuals with developmental disabiities may  enjoy practicing the in and out motions by stringing notches shapes such Easter eggs.

The following video demonstrates a client weaving shapes onto the cord created by cutting a large bleach bottle.

Squeeze Buckles

There are a variety of buckles used on clothing and equipment such as backpacks. Some take greater hand strength to squeeze than others do.  Some of my clients have had difficulty understanding where to position fingers for squeezing. Nail polish may be added to indicate where to squeeze in order to release the buckle.

The photo below show a client connecting buckles that are smaller, but require less force.  I attached all the female buckle ends to pink fabric and the male buckle ends to green fabric. My client learned to find 2 different colors before attempting to connect them.

Buckling for Hand Strengthening

Using force provides powerful sensory stimulation as well as building hand strength. Some of my clients had the cognitive skills and hand strength to push the ends of a buckle together and enjoyed the repetition of resistive sensory input.

The adaptation shown above provides a bag of sand with one end attached to a buckle half. The client then grasps the pink duct tape connected to the buckle halves to connect. I have incorporated this activity into gross motor groups that involved moving weighted materials from one area to another.

Opening buckles is also a great hand strengthening activity. The individual shown below has adequate motor planning skills to open the buckles and then insert the separated bags into the container. He seemed to love the repetition and sensory aspect of pulling apart buckles and moving the heavy bags.

Buckles can be incorporated into many activities to teach skills and strengthen hands. Explore using these adaptations while providing reinforcing sensory stimulation on

  • a rocking chair,
  • from a vibrating cushion or even
  • during a hippotherapy session.

Shown below is a client opening fasteners including a belt buckle, zipper and buttons as she searches for a prize.

More strategies to manipulate Fasteners




Tying Knots and Laces


Leave a Reply