Scissor skills are an important set of fine motor skills required for developing cutting abilities. Cutting skills take time to develop in children and can take until a child is 6 years old to be fully developed.
Scissor use has slowly been on the decline due to the increase in the use of technology during schooling. However, as an Occupational Therapist, developing scissor skills is still an important part of a child’s development.
Why is Developing Scissor Skill Important?
Often in occupational therapy sessions, we use scissor cutting as an important fine motor skill, especially for our younger children.
Scissor skills and cutting activities help develop fine motor skills, in particular the muscle strength and dexterity of the child.
In addition to fine motor skills, cutting activities can also help develop bilateral coordination and visual motor integration. This involves using both side of the child’s body, one hand to hold the paper while the other holds the scissors. It also requires the brain to communicate between the hand and the eyes.
Let us quickly go through the tips and tricks of improving scissor skills for children.
Children’s Scissor Skills Development Progress
It is essential for parents to know the right age for a child to use scissors. You cannot expect preschoolers to cut complex shapes. Practice makes perfect and there’s always the first step.
Here’s a list of how scissor skills progress:
- 2 – 2.5 years – Children snip paper edges and use the other hand to stabilize the cutting
- 3 – 3.5 years – Children can cut lines across a paper and turn the paper with the alternate hand
- 4 – 5 years – Children can cut simple shapes and turn the paper with the other hand accurately
Kindergarten children are often given playdough sausages and a pair of plastic scissors to practice pre scissor skills. This may involve doing simple snips.
As they develop their scissors skills, children can learn to cut straight lines, curved lines, simple shapes and complex shapes.
Anyone can supervise a child to track their cutting skills. If you are a parent or teacher and have noticed that your child may have trouble with scissor skills, you can contact an occupational therapist.
Occupational therapists can help to identify issues related to the developmental progression of the child.
It can be fun to just jump into giving our kids scissors to start learning to cut. However, it is important for them to use the right tool and learn how to hold scissors correctly.
Before Children Practice Scissor Skills Activities
There are a few skills that your child needs before they can start working on scissor skills.
Here are some signs that your child is ready to learn this new skill.
- When they use proper seating balance on the chair and can use their hands and arms freely.
- Can use both hands together, like clap, crawl, and rip paper apart.
- Have the ability to move the thumb, middle finger, and index finger while keeping the other fingers still
Finding the Right Pair of Scissors for Your Child
Using the right tool is going to significantly improve their scissors skills.
Typically, for younger children who are just learning to cut with scissors, we want to give them learning scissors which are not sharp but can cut through playdough and paper.
As they get older, we want them to start using sharper scissors. Short blade scissors offer maximum efficiency. Nevertheless, the scissor blades need to be sharp to cut the practice material.
Important note: It is important that there is always adult supervision when children are using scissors. Scissors are sharp and require careful manipulation and handling.
When choosing scissors, use small scissors which are appropriate for the size of the child’s hands.
Additionally, scissors that have bigger holds are easiest for children to use. This allows them to put all their fingers inside the handle so they can use their whole hand to cut (i.e. more hand strength), rather than just two fingers.
Some children, especially those who have weak hand strength and muscles or poor coordination skills may benefit from self-opening scissors. Self-opening scissors, also known as bounce back scissors, help the child open the scissors after they have made a snip.
One of the most important thing to consider when looking for scissors for your child is whether they are left or right handed!
Left Handed Scissors for Children
Although it may be hard for you to know whether your child is left or right handed, it is important that once you know you have a leftie, that you give them left handed scissors.
Using left-handed scissors for left-handers is important. And yes, there is a difference between left and right-handed scissors.
Give the child left-handed scissors for proper development of motor skills, scissors, assistant hand skills, and others.
How to Hold Scissors Correctly
When they start learning to hold scissors, every child has their own unique way to learn to hold and use scissors.
However, there is a correct way to hold the scissors and as parents and teachers, we can teach children how to do this. We can make this a fun experience for a child to understand the proper and improper ways of holding scissors.
When teaching kids to hold the scissors correctly, there are a few things to remember:
- Thumbs in the top hold
- All the other fingers (that you can fit) in the bottom hold
- Hold the scissors upright so the blades are going up and down, rather than side to side
With this correct grip where the index finger is placed in the front, it gives better scissor control to cut simple shapes or more complex shapes. Scissor use become easier when the child learns the correct and way to hold it.
Scissor Cutting Activities for Children
- Instruct children to snip play dough into little pieces with scissors
- Show children to cut plastic straws into beady pieces
- Guide them to snip pieces of different textures
- Finally, show children to cut through dotted lines, curvy lines, and cutting lines on paper
- Set a task and reward children as their scissor skills and accuracy improve to boost their morale
Scissors Cutting Practice Materials
Provide resources to children that do not need much positioning or holding. Initially, you might want them to start snipping rather than learning to cut.
Here are some of the hardest scissor cutting practice tools for children in ascending order:
- Thick straight line on firm paper
- Curvy line papers
- Paper that has simple shapes
- Complex shape light paper
Importance of Scissor Skills
Bilateral Coordination Development
Preschoolers are encouraged to use both sides of the body at the same time to cut papers and use scissors. Since one hand holds the paper, the other hand can comfortably cut the paper with a scissor.
Bilateral coordination is an important life skill that has several other applications as the child grows. Some of it includes reading a book, running to kick a ball, shirt buttoning, dishwashing, and more.
Improved Hand-Eye Coordination
The child will cut the paper and use the scissors with their hands but they also need to see where they are cutting. For this, they need to use their eyes for proper hand-eye coordination to improve their scissor skills.
Hand-eye coordination is important for multitasking which is applicable in other areas like using the fork and spoon or throwing and catching a ball.
Enhanced Motor Skills
Scissor cutting practice helps to strengthen the fingers and the hands of a child. The scissors use the entire hand and the hand muscles.
It is a good exercise that helps to improve children’s fine motor skills. This makes it easier for them to learn writing, coloring, painting, brushing, and more. Overall, it determines how well a child can grip the object and use it.
Determine Child’s Dexterity
Over the course of teaching and learning, the child finally identifies the dominant hand. They use this hand to perform proper activities like writing, holding, and more.
It also helps to figure out the assistant hand that offers support to the dominant hand. Practicing cutting skills where the child needs to use both hands is important as it allows the dominant hand to rotate and move in different ways that the helping hand cannot.
Grasp Pattern Promotion
The tripod grip is an essential grasp technique that prompts the child to use the middle, thumb, and index fingers. This is an essential technique because it also applies to holding a pencil.
This technique depends on how a child holds the scissors, snips, and cuts.
Improved Visual Perception
Children unknowingly switch their eyes in other directions when they get experts at cutting papers along a line. It has a positive impact on their visual-motor skills and scissor skills alike.
Understand Shapes Better
It is easy to determine if the child understands shapes. The same way can identify if the child has successfully learned to cut papers and other objects with scissors.
If a child follows the lines or directions when cutting a paper, they can understand shapes. It is easier to cut with scissors when a child learns the difference between lines, curves, boxes, and circles. They can easily start cutting shapes by themselves once they understand the idea.
Scissor Skills Learning Process
- Show the child how to hold the scissor and do air cutting practice by opening and closing the scissor.
- Once the child learns to open and close the scissors on their own, encourage snipping. You can practice snipping edges of paper or playdough.
- Encourage the child to cut a straight line across the full-length paper.
- Start cutting practice of the child with thick solid lines and reduce the thickness of the lines as accuracy improves.
- Shift to curved lines, zig-zag lines, and other shapes only after practicing straight-line cutting.
- Practice cutting complex shapes around animals or objects.
Strategies for Children Having Difficulty with Cutting
- Employ hand-to-hand scissor holding practice with the child to reinforce the child’s hand position for an appropriate and safe grip
- Mark the thumb hole with colored tape on the scissors is a great way to prompt the child to place their thumb there
- Use self-opening scissors, rather than typical scissors.
Although scissor skills may not be a huge skill that is enforced in the classroom environments anymore, there are still many benefits of developing scissor cutting skills.
Above, we have mentioned a list of different benefits, developmental milestones, and also cutting activities that you can do with your child. Track the progress of the child’s cutting skills and give them new tasks to improve their scissor skills.
Occupational therapists can help to determine if your child has developmental problems with their fine motor development. The earlier the signs are detected, the child has better the chances of improvement.
For effective techniques to strengthen your child’s core, check out our blog post about child-friendly prone extension exercises.
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Scissor Skills. (2022). Retrieved 24 March 2022, from https://www.nhsggc.org.uk/kids/resources/ot-activityinformation-sheets/scissor-skills/
Scissor Cutting Skills For Kids. (2022). Retrieved 24 March 2022, from https://www.ot-mom-learning-activities.com/scissor-cutting.html
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