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Teaching your child how to use scissors correctly can be a daunting task!
If your child struggles with scissor cutting, take them right back to basics and help them to master each step below.
Learning to cut out basically involves 2 different skills:
On this page, I have broken down the developmental stages of cutting to give you lots of ideas to help your child learn how to use scissors effectively.
Just click on the quick links below to jump to the instructions and photos for each step.
The first developmental stage of learning how to use scissors is to master the grasp-release motion to open and close the scissors.
The fun activities below will help your child get the hang of this motion without using scissors!
Opening and closing a clothes pin (clothes peg) can help a child feel the squeeze and release motion that is needed for scissors.
Elsewhere on my site, I use clothes pins to work on isolating the tripod fingers, but if your child is still too young to use just three fingers, let them use these activities with the tips of all their fingers for the grasp-release sensation.
I have more grasp-release activities and suggestions in my Scissor Skills E-Book - check it out!
Once your child has got the hang of the grasp-release motion, you will be ready to teach your child how to use scissors!
Keep these points in mind!
Make sure your child uses an appropriate scissor grasp.
Thumb in one hole, and middle finger through the other.
The index finger can rest on the outside of the scissors, or be in the same hole as the middle finger.
My page of FAQ about scissor cutting shows photos of the best way for kids to hold different styles of scissors, and also answers some questions about left handed scissors. Check it out!
Have your child roll out playdough sausages/worms and then snip them.
You can also roll the snipped pieces of playdough into little balls with the tripod fingers as a fun finger exercise.
Prepare narrow strips (1.5cm) of paper so your child can snip across the width.
This is easy to do, as the scissors only need to open and close once to be successful.
Use the snipped paper in a collage.
You can also have your child make snips around a circle picture, as shown alongside, or around a paper plate.
Once your child has mastered the single snip across a narrow strip, prepare slightly wider strips (3-4cm across) that require two snips to cut across.
Use the snipped paper in a picture or collage like this one of the sun, that combines single snips with double snips.
If your child absolutely cannot get the hang of how to use scissors with a grasp release motion, you could try a pair of special scissors like these, that automatically open after your child has closed them.
(NB this is an affiliate link - I may earn a commission if you purchase something through my link. However, you are under no obligation to purchase anything!)
Now that your child has mastered the grasp-release motion, there are a few tips that can help your child learn to use scissors effectively and efficiently!
Read all the tips BEFORE you help your child learn to cut out on lines!
Do encourage your child to hold the paper off the table with the assistant hand.
Thumb on top and fingers underneath is the best position for the assistant hand.
Discourage your child from holding the paper down on the table. Kids with poor bilateral coordination often prefer to hold the paper down on the table, so the assistant hand does not need to coordinate movement with the cutting hand!
Do encourage your child to cut around shapes the correct way.
Right-handers should cut to the right of the shape, and left-handers should cut to the left of the shape.
Cutting around shapes in the correct direction will help your child to get the blade of the scissors to stay on the line more effectively and should help your child to cut more smoothly.
Do encourage your child to start cutting lines on the line furthest from the holding hand.
This will encourage more efficient cutting as your child will not need to keep picking up the cut-off piece in order to keep cutting!
In the developmental stages of cutting, children need to first learn to cut on straight lines before progressing to simple shapes.
My Cutting Activities page will give you a free printable download template for some actual activity ideas; I am just covering the basic principles on this page!
Start with lots and lots of thick, straight lines on slightly-thicker-than-normal-paper (160-180gm).
Just keep on being creative
with lines until your child masters it. Be inspired by the ideas on the cutting activities page!
Cutting out lots of circles and spirals will help your child to get the hang of moving the paper with the assistant hand while cutting.
I find it really helped to sit behind my child and hand-over-hand help them to get the feel of the smooth movement of turning the paper around.
Once your child has got the hang of turning the paper while cutting, then progress to simple shapes.
Your child needs to learn to gauge when to "turn" the corners with the scissors, and how to keep the scissors in the corner while turning.
Again, cut lots and lots of shapes, be creative with them and use them with lines and circles to make fun crafts.
Or try the fun cutting templates below for a large variety of cutting printables!
Does your child need more scissor cutting practice? Are you struggling to find good scissor cutting templates?
OT Mom’s compilation of fun cutting templates will give your child lots of cutting practice with lovely end products to build your child’s confidence!
Suitable for a range of skills - from preschoolers who are just learning to use scissors, all the way to early elementary kids who need more practice with their scissor skills.
There are 19 different scissor cutting crafts, all with photographed instructions and a variety of templates - over 50 templates in all!
Starting with simple snipping activities, the templates will enable your child to learn to cut on straight lines and then to cut out shapes. All the activities are photographed so you and your child can see what you are working towards!
These are only suggestions to help you guide your child through the developmental stages of cutting. If you are at all concerned about your child's progress, please get an occupational therapy evaluation.
If your child's hands tire easily, work on strengthening the hand muscles with these simple activities.
If your child struggles to coordinate holding the paper and cutting at the same time, then try some bilateral coordination activities.
You can also try some hand-eye coordination activities to help the eyes focus on the blade and the line and guide the hands in keeping the blade on the line.
If your child's eyes are watering during scissor cutting activities, or if your child keeps looking sideways at the paper or closing one eye, PLEASE ask a pediatric or behavioral optometrist to check your child's eyes. This is very important!
If you want to know more about how to help your child establish a strong foundation for all fine motor skills, then read this page.
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