Cutting with scissors is a skill that is required for children during preschool and school activities, therefore it is important that your child knows how to master it.
Teaching your child how to use scissors correctly can be a challenging task, as it requires the skill of hand separation, which is the ability to work with the thumb separately from the middle finger and the index finger.
Children aged three or four have the necessary skills to cut and snip, however, scissor skills are not fully developed until around the age of 6. It is worthwhile to encourage your preschooler to start practicing those fine motor skills.
So… what can you do?
Firstly, you need to select the right scissors. Search for a pair that fits your child’s hand. The scissors should be sharp enough for cutting, and blunt enough not to hurt the hand. It is the child’s dominant hand that operates the scissors so that the child can see the cut line. Left-handed children should always use left-handed scissors. Children with special needs, coordination problems or hand weakness may need special or adaptive scissors to start with. Examples of these are no-loop scissors or spring scissors, which automatically reopen as soon as the grip is eased.
Secondly, you want your child to be engaged in fine motor activities that improve bilateral motor coordination as well as hand and finger strength, such as playing with playdough, tongs and clothespins.
When your child starts cutting, make sure that they are sitting correctly.
- Both feet resting on the ground. If the feet do not rest flat on the floor, they should be supported by a footstool or small box
- There should be a 90-degree angle at the feet, knees, thighs and elbows
- The back should be straight against the back of the chair
- When cutting, ensure that their shoulders are not hiked up and that their elbows are not elevated
Let your child cut thicker materials, such as construction paper or playdough. These materials will give them a better sense of control over the scissors, as they are easier to cut. Also, start with cutting ‘small snips’ on the paper edges of small papers, such as business cards and then move to larger pages. Start by cutting along a straight line, then zig zag or curved lines.
Reinforce techniques such as:
- Holding the scissors correctly with a ‘thumbs up to the ceiling’ grasp (Thumb in the smaller hole and 2nd and 3rd fingers in the bigger hole). A small sticker placed on the appropriate loop may help
- Keeping the ‘alligator mouth’ of the scissors wide
- Keeping the line (to cut on) in the middle of the ‘mouth’. Make the line thicker and darker initially and gradually decrease line thickness as cutting skills improve
Don’t challenge your child too much. Always remember that as soon as your child feels successful, they will want to keep engaging in the activity.