When I found my first scissor cutting exercise for my boys to practice their cutting skills, I had no idea of the benefits of scissor cutting. I began reading a little and found how scissor cutting is linked to handwriting skills. (See the Thanksgiving Cutting Practice sheet post for more on how the two are linked.)
Then, I created the Christmas Cutting Practice sheet which was a HUGE hit and our #1 post of the year! Wow! I thought. Both parents and teachers are eating this up! Scissors must be a bigger hit with kids than I know!
Little did I know just how much kids enjoy scissor activities, but also ALL the many benefits that teaching your kids to use scissors provides!
When I took Connor (our oldest son) in for speech testing through the schools/federal program, standard testing requires that each child be given a full evaluation for development, speech, behavior, etc. One of the questions they asked me and really seem to focus on was, “Does he know how to use scissors?” I masked over the incredulous response of “He just turned 3! Why would he know how to use scissors?!” to a subdued “I don’t know. I’ve never given him scissors for anything but playdough. He may have used them in Sunday school though.” When the therapists brought him back into the room, they sat him on the floor with child-size scissors and a scrap of paper. I was amazed! He looked like a little Edward Scissorhands the way he maneuvered this new tool, and within minutes had the floor covered with about 100 little triangles!
So as I began putting together the Winter Themed Scissor Cutting Practice sheets I pondered over the advice Carol Zook, one of my wonderful guest contributors and a former kindergarten teacher of 34 years, shared with me about scissor cutting:
Scissor exercises are so IMPORTANT for developing fine motor skills! When working on scissor cutting exercises, the easiest examples should be worked on first. Start with straight lines, then soft curved lines, wavy lines, then lines with sharp angles.
Hmmm… maybe I should make the scissor cutting practice sheets a little easier. But how easy? What age child would be using these? And if Connor was supposed to know how to (or at least been practiced on) scissor usage for federal early intervention services at age 3, how old should a child be when they start using scissors?
As I searched online to find answers to my questions, the findings were endless. However, the one article I found best answered all my questions and gave the most thorough info on how scissor cutting affects child development is Scissors and Your Child by Kimberly M. Wiggins OTR/L, Licensed Occupational Therapist at G & E Therapies (a Rehabilitation Company that specializes in family based care in the Kirkland, NY). It states:
A child who is following the appropriate developmental track should start cutting at the age of 2 years old. There are many reasons for this:
- Cutting allows a child to build up the tiny muscles in the palm of their hand with the continuous open and close of the hand. These muscles are also used for writing, painting, and gripping things like a toothbrush, spoon or fork, and even pulling up pants.
- Cutting enhances eye-hand coordination (using vision, processing what is seen, and moving the hand simultaneously to accomplish a task). Other examples of eye-hand coordination: catching/throwing a ball, scooping food with a spoon, and zipping a coat.
- Cutting encourages your child to use bilateral coordination (using both sides of the body at the same time while each hand is performing its own task). For example, when cutting a circle, a child must hold the paper with one hand (and continuously turn it) while the other hand is opening and closing the scissors and moving forward to cut. Other examples: zipping up a coat or pants, washing dishes, and opening an envelope.
The first thing a child should learn for scissor cutting is how to open and close their hand and feel the sensation of cutting a piece of paper. If your child is having difficulty manipulating the scissors, try using other instruments or doing other tasks associated to cutting. For instance, tongs, tweezers, and hole-punchers require the same open-close motion of scissors.
So how can you help your child develop their cutting skills?
First, don’t expect your child to grasp cutting right away. It can take weeks and even months. Cutting requires muscle control, accuracy and coordination. While you cannot control when your child will be able to use scissors, you can point them in the right direction…
- Make sure your child has the proper hand placement. My middle child is always turning his hand upside down so I keep reminding him, “Hey buddy, I need a thumbs up!” I also read to put a marker dot, sticker or a smiley face on the child’s thumb and remind them it needs to point to the ceiling.
- Practice! Here are some fun ideas that your child can use to practice proper scissor techniques…
- Playdough! This is what I first started Connor on for cutting. I have later found out it is the number one material therapists and other mommies suggest starting your child on! Plus, kneading and pinching the dough help with developing the hand muscles mentioned above!
- Cookie dough. Make up a batch of cookie dough and give the little tike scissors to cut the dough with. So what if its not a beautifully cut cookie? Your child will be proud of his/her artistic and chef abilities and that’s what counts!
- Colored construction paper. Let your child free cut. Then glue the shapes on to make an artwork mosaic!
- Play with scrapbook scissors. They come with such fun zig-zags and scalloped designs that it makes cutting even more fun! Just be cautious that the cutting edge is sharper so this may be more appropriate for older children.
- Scissor cutting practice sheets! Check out our newest Winter Themed sheets! Plus, pin the Thanksgiving Cutting Practice sheets and the Christmas Cutting Practice sheets for more cutting fun later in the year!