Our Top 5 Tips for Cutting with Scissors (from an OT)
Cutting with scissors is a task that comes easy to some, but there are many children who struggle to master this activity that they will use over and over again throughout their school years. And frustration and tears are often the result of their efforts. But don’t loose hope. There are so many tips and tricks that I want to teach you to help your kids not only master using scissors but learn to love cutting to make all kinds of creative projects.
If you have been to the about page, you already know that I’m a Pediatric Occupational Therapist and have spent years teaching children how to use scissors (among many other things, of course). So, you might imagine that I’ve picked up a few things along the way. I’ve figured out what works…and what doesn’t.
And, can I just say, as I was doing a little bit of research for this article about what information is already out there to help you all, I was amazed at the things that well-meaning people were teaching as “the best way”. I came across one video in particular that was at the top of a lot of Google searches that simply gets it wrong. And I watched as the poor little one in the video continued to struggle and hold the scissors so awkwardly that he would never find success with scissor skills any time soon. (Alright…I am getting off my soapbox now.)
I say all of this to say, there is a better…and easier…way to teach your child how to use scissors. Of course, I’m not going to be able to get all of the information into this article, but these tips will at least get you going in the right direction from the start.
What is the importance of scissor skills anyway. I mean, it’s not like teaching a child to use a fork or use a pencil. But it is important. They will be called on again and again in school, especially through the elementary or primary grades, to use scissors for various activities over and over again. You will especially see lots of cutting with scissors preschool tasks (even if your child is not yet ready). And each time, you want them to feel a sense of accomplishment, don’t you? Of course.
If you want to go even further, check out my digital course for “Scissor Success”
(This course has been updated recently with even more fun activities, tips and tricks for teaching scissors skills and bonuses. Let my pediatric OT experience work for you.)
Before we dive in, you may be asking “When should a child begin to use scissors?” And I want to answer that before we dive in…just a little bit of managing expectations I suppose. Here is a little table that I put together to show you typical scissor skills develop.
|Age||Typical Scissor Skills|
|2 to 2 ½ years||Holds scissors and snips|
|3 years||Moves scissors forward while cutting a longer area|
|3 ½ years||Cuts across a piece of paper relatively close to a line|
|4 years||Cuts curvy lines relatively close to the line Cuts large circles|
|4 ½ to 5 years||Cuts squares and other basic shapes|
|5 to 6 years||Cuts complex shapes|
HOWEVER, please keep in mind that every child is different and moves at his/her own pace. Just because your child isn’t exactly on track does not necessarily mean that there is something “wrong”. If you really do have concerns, seek out the services of an occupational therapist. Request an evaluation. It is a simple way to put your mind at ease and make sure that your child has all of the resources that he/she needs for success.
1. Choose the Right Scissors
Choosing the right scissors may seem like a simple thing, but there are a lot of factors to consider. Here are a few things that you should take into consideration:
- Size of child’s hand
- Left or right
- Safety considerations
- Need for adaptation (eg-self-opening scissors)
- Ergonomics and comfort
- Aesthetics (they should be something your child wants to use)
2. Don’t Rush the Process
Yes, we do want to encourage our children to try new things and master new skills. But we cannot rush them into something that they are not ready for. And I don’t just mean making them do things they don’t want to do. I also mean making the little body do things that it is not yet developed enough to handle.
There is a good reason why a child does not master cutting skills until about age 6. It’s because the body is not ready to do all the things necessary. It is still growing and changing, getting stronger and learning more so that it can take on bigger challenges. Please don’t expect your child to do things that are not even physically possible. Go at their pace.
Of course, there are those kids who never want to try something new. And we don’t want to give in and just never have them hold a pair of scissors until they get to kindergarten. Then they will really struggle just to keep up and feel like they can’t succeed. Instead, introduce using scissors in fun ways. Maybe don’t even start with scissors, but instead start with tearing paper. Then snip some play dough, grass or noodles. Move on to cutting paper and making fun craft projects with time.
And if they just scream when presented with the daunting task of holding scissors…there may be other things going on. For example, are their sensory sensitivities at play? have they seen you use scissors and see that they’re safe? is it simply a bad time in the day and the child is overly tired? There are so many factors that can come into play. But…DON’T GIVE UP. Revisit it over and over again in fun ways until you find something that works for your kiddo.
3. Proper Positioning for Using Scissors
When talking about proper positioning, most people go straight to the hand. And, though that is important (thumb up please), the hand does not work independently. It is supported by the wrist, arm, shoulder and the entire body.
First of all, your child will have better success if they are seated in a chair that fits them. Also keep an eye on that elbow. If it is out like a chicken wing, there may be some instability in the shoulder. This is easily addressed. And then look at the position of the wrist. I have seen some seriously contorted arm and wrist positions while kids are using scissors, and it makes it so much more difficult when they are cutting with scissors. Their success rate will be down and frustrations up.
I go more into detail about proper positioning and how to address it in our “Scissor Success” course.
4. Build a Strong Foundation for Cutting Skills
If you really break it down, there is so much that goes into cutting skills before a child even picks up the scissors. So, don’t rush ahead before you build that foundation. Some of the bricks in the foundation include hand strength, should stability, bilateral coordination, visual motor integration, attending skills and focus to task, sensory regulation, fine motor coordination…to name a few.
So, don’t be too hasty to just hand over the scissors. Start with activities like playing with play dough, tearing paper, playing with lego blocks…the list goes on and on. Once they are ready, then introduce the scissors.
If you are looking for more ways on how to improve scissor skills, check out our “Scissor Success” Course
5. Keep It FUN!
If you haven’t caught on yet, kids learn best through PLAY! I read somewhere that scientists discovered it takes approximately 400 repetitions to create a synapse in the brain, unless it’s done in play. In which case it only takes 10 to 20 repetitions. Isn’t that amazing?
Play is not a waste of time. It is the work of childhood and how they learn and grow. So, I encourage you to not stick to the rigid rules of adulthood. Let them explore and create on their own terms. The crafts that they make may not be what you would have made or look anything like you wanted to the finished product to come out as…who cares?!? The important thing is the process. That is where the learning takes place. Keep this in mind while you are teaching scissors skills, and KEEP IT FUN!
Here are a few of my favorite crafts for practicing cutting with scissors:
Cutting with Scissors Worksheets
It’s true that I am not a fan of worksheets, at least not most of the time. But sometimes they are an easy go to that you can take with you anywhere without much fuss. And teachers love them too for obvious reasons. So, I decided that if children are learning to cut with scissors worksheets, I might as well develop some that are the best ones out there. If your child is to the point where they are ready to practice cutting skills, check out these cutting with scissors worksheets.