The opening and closing motion of cutting with scissors helps children develop the small muscles in their hands otherwise known as fine motor skills. These muscles are crucial for holding a pencil or crayons and gripping and manipulating objects.
Cutting also helps develop eye-hand coordination as children hold the paper with one hand and cut with the other while tracking the movement of the scissors with their eyes.
Another important skill that is developed through cutting is bilateral coordination. Bilateral coordination involves using both sides of the body at the same time while each hand is performing different tasks. For example, to cut a square, the child must hold the paper with one hand and turn it while the other hand is not only opening and closing the scissors but also moving along the line. Easier said than done.
When holding scissors, ensure your child has their thumb positioned in the small hole of the scissors, on top of the larger hole with their other fingers. The non-dominant or supporting hand holding the paper should also have the thumb positioned on top.
The general progression of cutting follows being able to open and shut scissors, snipping the edge of paper, cutting straight lines, cutting curved lines, cutting simple shapes and then progressing to increasingly complex shapes. Don’t try and master everything at once. Just practice opening and shutting the scissors to start with.
Practice cutting materials with thick and varying textures such as old birthday cards, paper plates, leaves, play dough, grass, curling ribbon and straws. This will provide your child’s hand with increased feedback to the muscles and joints, assisting with the development of fluidity and accuracy.
4. Shark vs. Fish
Practice doing big snips or ‘chomps’ and little snips or ‘nibbles’, with your child. I like to use an analogy of a shark for ‘chomps’ (big snips) and a fish for ‘nibbles’ (little snips). Chomps are used when the scissor blades are closed completely and nibbles are used when the scissors are only closed partially. Typically, chomps are used at the beginning of a long cut and nibbles are used as you near the end.
5. Thick Markers And Stickers
Use thick, bold lines on the shape or line your child is cutting out. Drawing simple shapes or lines using permanent marker can be a helpful way to do this. If your child is practicing the control of stopping their cutting, then you can use a sticker to show them where they need to stop.
6. Cutting Song
It is helpful to use the same words with your child while cutting. Singing the song ‘Open, shut them, open, shut them, give a little snip’ can be helpful prior to commencing a cutting task. This song reinforces the cutting movement pattern required.
Little bits of practice is better than one large chunk of practice. Here’s some ideas of how to incorporate scissor skills into daily life and routines
- When helping in the kitchen, your child can help you cut food including uncooked/cooked pasta, celery, banana, slices of carrot or bread.
- When playing outside, your child can cut items such as weeds, leaves and grass.
- Your child can cut pictures from old cards, books or magazines to make a collage, or cut out toys from a catalog to make a wish list.