Teaching Preschoolers to Use Scissors

Steps to Perfect Scissor Development

Start the Snipping Process. Once your child's hand muscles have strengthened and her bilateral and coordination skills have improved, introduce the scissors. Follow these simple instructions for holding scissors correctly.

  1. Position the wrist so that the thumb is turned upward, the thumb joint resting inside the thumb loop.
  2. Make sure the tip of the middle finger is inside the opposite loop. Some scissors have enough space for the middle and ring fingers to be positioned inside this loop. There may even be adequate space for both fingers.
  3. Place the index finger outside the loop, in front of the middle finger serving as a "guide."
  4. The ring finger and pinkie should be curled into the palm (unless the ring finger is inside the loop with the middle finger). "Many children need frequent help positioning the wrist correctly in the 'thumbs up' position," Smith advises. "A helpful strategy is to hold the paper above eye level or tape it to the wall so that the child is cutting upwards. Cutting in this position automatically positions the wrist correctly."

Showcase Your Own Skills. Teach your own scissor skills to your child. "Modeling, while sitting beside your child instead of across, is easier, especially for kids who are challenged with body position and space," says Sunita Murty-Gami, an occupational therapist and Clinical Coordinator for PediaStaff. Be sure to explain what you are doing at each step. For example, say, "Look, I am using my thumb to open and close the scissors." Provide a visual cue, such as, "The scissor blades are opening and closing like a crocodile's mouth." If your child has a difficult time manipulating the scissors, there are "two-person" training scissors available in many craft stores or online. These are excellent because they have an extra set of loops. You can hold and manipulate the outside loops while your child holds the inside loops, allowing your little one to "feel" the movement of the blades opening and closing.

Encourage Independent Cutting. Once your child can hold and manipulate a pair of scissors with ease, she is ready to cut on her own. She can start by snipping several colorful straws into small pieces. Thread a colorful piece of string or yarn through the pieces to make a bracelet or necklace. Once she has mastered snipping, offer her one-inch-wide strips of card stock, construction paper, or old file folders. The firmness of these materials makes cutting easier for a beginner because the paper doesn't flop around and the short width of the paper allows for cutting the strips in half with one snip. Never let the scraps of paper go to waste. "I often have a child snip pieces of green, yellow, and orange paper into small pieces to make leaves for a tree or sprinkles for an ice cream cone picture," Murty-Gami says.

Have your child attempt to snip sequentially by cutting across a 4-inch piece of paper and progressing to an 8-inch piece. With practice, he will learn to cut on straight lines, curved lines, angled lines, and simple shapes with skill. The cutting lines should be thick and bold in the beginning; as your child's skills improve, progress to thinner lines. If your child has difficulty staying on the lines while cutting, make a practice sheet by outlining the cutting line with two thin strips of school glue. Once the glue dries, have your child cut on the line between the ridges of glue. If he veers off of the line, he will feel a bump as he cuts across the glue strip. After completing several practice sheets, the sensory feedback should help him understand how to stay on the lines.

Encourage Scissor Skill Development. Don't worry if your child is a messy cutter at first. Kids progress at their own pace, so prepare his little hands with fun games and activities that challenge fine motor skills. Keep this development progression in mind as your kid begins using scissors:

  1. The child begins to show an interest in cutting.
  2. The child holds the scissors correctly.
  3. The child opens and closes the scissors in a coordinated manner.
  4. The child uses an entire hand to snip paper.
  5. The child uses scissors to cut forward across a piece of paper with two or more consecutive snips.
  6. The child cuts a piece of paper in half.
  7. The child follows straight lines, with the scissors (not the paper) moving to stay on the line.
  8. The child manipulates scissors and paper to cut out shapes with curves.
  9. The child cuts squares.
  10. The child cuts more complex shapes.

Remember that using scissors efficiently is a complicated skill that improves with practice and, as we all know, practice makes perfect.

Copyright © 2012 Meredith Corporation.

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