Haptic display units have been widely used for conveying button sensations to users, primarily employing vibrotactile actuators. However, the human feeling for pressing buttons mainly relies on kinaesthetic sensations (rather than vibrotactile sensations), and little studies exist on small-scale kinaesthetic haptic units. Thus, the primary goals of this paper are to design a miniature kinaesthetic actuator based on Magneto-Rheological (MR) fluid that can convey various button-clicking sensations and to experimentally evaluate its haptic performance. The design focuses of the proposed actuator were to produce sufficiently large actuation forces (resistive forces) for human users in a given size constraint and to offer a wide range of actuation forces for conveying vivid haptic sensations to users. To this end, this study first performed a series of parametric studies using mathematical force models for multiple operating modes of MR fluid in conjunction with finite element electromagnetism analysis. After selecting design parameters based on parametric studies, a prototype actuator was constructed, and its performance was evaluated using a dynamic mechanical analyzer. It measured the actuator's resistive force with a varying stroke (pressed depth) up to 1 mm and a varying input current from 0 A to 200 mA. The results show that the proposed actuator creates a wide range of resistive forces from around 2 N (off-state) to over 9.5 N at 200 mA. In order to assess the prototype's performance in the terms of the haptic application prospective, a maximum force rate was calculated to determine just noticeable difference in force changes for the 1 mm stoke of the actuator. The results show that the force rate is sufficient to mimic various levels of button sensations, indicating that the proposed kinaesthetic actuator can offer a wide range of resistive force changes that can be conveyed to human operators. Published by AIP Publishing.