It seems so easy for an adult. But if you have ever tried to teach a child how to use scissors, you will realize that there is a lot of development that goes into cutting a piece of paper. With the proper tools, some tips of the trade, and a little prep, teaching a child to use scissors can be a relatively easy task.
Why Is Using Scissors So Hard?
Being able to cut with scissors requires fine motor to move the small muscles in your hand. It requires hand-eye coordination to move the scissors where the eyes want them to go. Operating a pair of scissors demands bilateral coordination which uses two sides of the body at the same time. That is a lot of development that needs to be fostered prior to putting a pair of scissors in a child’s hand.
There are two levels to using scissors.
- Open and close motion
- Cutting on a line
Prep Work: Open and Close
My kiddos had the hardest time getting the open and close motion. It went against nature to have to open the scissors back up. That is why it is so important to build those muscles. Some ideas are using a spray bottle, playing with clothespins, and using salad tongs.
The 1 and 2 Year ABCJesusLovesMe Preschool Curricula contain activities to prepare a child to use scissors. While the activities may seem petty to an adult, they are so important for development building.
There has been a lot of debate on the best scissors for children to use. And, specialty scissors have been invented to make the process easier for children. But, I continually come back to the 5″ Blunt End Safety Scissors by Fiskars. These scissors have enough safety features to protect the child while still allowing for easy cutting.
If you choose to use a different pair, be sure that they will cut and not simply fold paper. Also, make sure that the scissors are not too heavy for the child to hold. If the child is a leftie, be sure that the scissors can be used by both hands or are specific for a left-handed child.
The Cutting Process
Just as there is a process to teach a child to read which begins before a child knows any phonetic sounds, there is a progression to help the child be successful in using scissors.
Begin by cutting items like “snakes” of playdough (introduced in the 2 Year Curriculum). Being narrow allows the child to focus solely on closing and opening the blades. For a little more difficulty, have the child cut drinking straws.
Next move to narrow paper strips. Use foam or thick paper which won’t bend as easily as the child holds it. The narrow strips again allow for a single open/close motion.
When the child has mastered the open/close motion, move to straight lines, circles/spirals, and then simple shapes.
Next week’s blog post will continue with teaching the child how to cut and the responsibilities of the adult.
What To Do Now?
If your child is under the age of 2 1/2, work on fine motor activities. The 1 and 2 Year Curricula contains weekly ideas to build the child’s hand strength. These activities build to increase strength.
If the child is 2 or above and unable to open and close the scissors, have fun with a variety of fine motor activities to strengthen the hand. If you are not seeing improvements, talk to your pediatrician or have an Occupational Therapy evaluation done.
If your child has mastered opening and closing the scissors, don’t miss next week’s post for the next step!
View on the ABCJLM YouTube Channel: How to Teach Children to Use Scissors
Disclaimer: I am not an Occupational Therapist, but am sharing what I have learned from OT’s and in raising my own children. Please consult an OT with specific questions about your child.