“Be Careful! Scissors are DANGEROUS!” or something along those lines is what parents usually shout when they see their little ones holding scissors in their hands. While I don’t disagree with the statement by any means, I want to share all of the ways scissor skills are so important for development, as well as all of the fun ways we can incorporate underlying scissor skills into everyday play…even for the youngest of our learners!
Using scissors efficiently requires a lot of motor planning, coordination, and dexterity. Before a student can successfully use scissors, there are many underlying skills that can be worked on and strengthened so that we can set up the student for optimal success. There are so many ways that we can interact and play with our kiddo’s to help develop the many different motor control areas!
Activities that promote opening and closing of the hands and fingers such as using tongs, tweezers, clips, squeezing, etc.
Activities that promote the use of both hands together such as tearing paper and peeling and sticking stickers.
Hand and Finger Strengthening:
Dough, putty, tweezers, tongs, spray bottles, stress ball squeezes, etc.
Activities that promote active and intentional use of the visual system such as eye-spy, hidden pictures, following targets with eyes (rolling a ball and following eyes, marble tower, etc)
When introducing scissors for the first time, spring loaded scissors are extremely helpful and can ease the introduction. The spring mechanism will “bounce” back the blades to reduce the amount of strength and coordination required, therefore, allowing kiddos who do not quite have the strength or coordination to still be able to cut! The best part is that once they outgrow the spring, you can “turn it off” and use them as normal scissors.
As a School-Based Occupational Therapy Assistant (COTA/L), we are often checking out the progression of scissor use in kiddo’s and here is a general milestone timeline that we use as reference.
We like to see kiddos snipping with scissors in one place
Cut a piece of paper in half
Cut out a 5” line within ½” of the target
Cut a 3” circle within ¼” of the target for 3/4th of the circle
Cut out a 3” square within ¼” of the line
While development isn’t always linear, we often see a general progression as outlined and the underlying skills are very important in achieving these skills.
Here are some fun tips and hacks to help your little ones practice their scissor skills:
- Start with “snipping”. practicing small snips will help promote practice, as well as success! We want our kiddo’s to feel like they are successfully cutting and expecting them to open/close and move forward can be tricky at first.
- Using a more restrictive paper such as cardstock or thicker paper can help with control (much easier to hold the paper steady than flimsy paper or thin material). You can also steady the paper for them to reduce the amount of work and coordination.
- Along with restrictive paper, you can also use restrictive materials such as dough, putty, straws, paper plates, index cards, etc.
- Teaching “thumbs up” when holding the scissors by placing a small sticker or Washi tape to remind them which side is up – tell them to make sure they can see their sticker.
- When teaching the forward motion aspect, make it fun! Pretend like the scissors are alligators, trains, cars, etc and have them cut across a path or road.
Trace Ace Scissors has been a great addition to my therapy toolbox. With my little preschool students, we had fun learning to use a stencil. Mini crayons help reinforce proper pencil grasp as they color, stencils help incorporate the use of the two hands together, and we used cardstock paper so that it would provide more resistance and help stabilize the paper as they cut with the spring loaded scissors.
Save it for later!