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Scissor cutting should play a big part in preschool and kindergarten activities, because learning how to use scissors correctly can also help with developing pencil control skills.
Cutting with scissors is considered to be a pre-writing skill.
Use the quick links below to jump to answers to your questions on this page.
Have a look at this pic of a mature pencil grip and you can see how these tripod fingers (thumb, index and middle fingers) are working well together to control the pencil.
Children need lots of opportunities to strengthen the hand muscles and practice the dexterity needed for pencil control.
Cutting with a proper scissor grasp, will give the tripod fingers lots of practice in working together, and will help to strengthen your child’s hand muscles.
This will help to improve fine motor skills and will help to give your child the foundations needed to develop pencil control for good handwriting.
Cutting out on a line can also help to strengthen visual-motor skills, which may help improve handwriting.
Because we want the tripod fingers to get lots of practice (in preparation for holding the pencil), the thumb, index and middle fingers need to be through the scissor holes. However, the type and size of the holes affects the exact positioning of the fingers.
If your child is just learning to cut, or if your child has weak hands and poor fine motor control, then look for scissors that have a large oval hole that the index and middle fingers can both fit through.
Once your child has gained some mastery of scissor cutting, you can increase the fine motor challenge by using scissors that have just two small round holes. Have your child put the thumb in one hole and the middle finger through the other hole. The index finger then needs to sit on the outside of the scissors to help stabilise the scissors and give more control.
Holding the scissors in this way enables the tripod fingers to work together well.
You can help your child keep the ring and little fingers tucked away by holding a little piece of paper under them. Keeping the ring and little fingers tucked away develops "ulnar stability" , which basically gives the side of the hand more stability, which frees the tripod fingers up to move more accurately.
Left-handed children should always cut with their left hand, using left-handed scissors.
Left handed scissors are vital to enabling them to cut successfully. This is important as it helps them to make their dominant hand strong and specialized.
So-called “ambidextrous scissors” are a marketing ploy – it is not the comfort of the handles that makes scissors left-handed/right-handed, it is the way the blades are fixed.
Look at the picture alongside: the scissors on the left are for lefties, and you can see how the blades are attached differently from those on the right-handed scissors.
The way the blades are attached affects the child's ability to see the line when cutting out.
If you are trying to get to grips with helping your left handed child, then visit this site designed especially to help left-handers (opens in a new window).
Or check out the range of scissors that also come in left handed versions, from PFOT.
"Cutting out" involves two completely separate skills:
It is best to teach these two skills separately, and help your child
to get the hang of opening and closing scissors before attempting any
"proper" cutting out.
Head over to my detailed page to teach your child how to use scissors. Lots of photos and tips abound!
Help your child master the grasp-release motion and gain confidence with snipping before moving on to cutting on a line.
Lots of tips and photos to help you!
OT Mom's printable cutting templates are suitable for a range of skills, from beginner cutters just learning to snip, to kids who need more practice cutting out shapes. Includes lovely spiral snakes for left and right handed children!
Is your child struggling to cut neatly with scissors?
Do you want to teach your preschooler how to cut with scissors but don't know where to start?
My 33 page scissor skills e-book will help answer your questions, and will give you step by step photographed activities to help your child master scissor skills.
PFOT stock a range of self opening, adapted and other special resources that are designed to help kids who struggle with scissor cutting. Check out their resources here!
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Mitchell, A. W., Hampton, C., Hanks, M., Miller, C., & Ray, N. (2012). Influence of task and tool characteristics on scissor skills in typical adults. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 66, e89–e97. https://dx.doi.org/10.5014/ajot.2012.004135
Ratcliffe, I., Concha, M. & Franzsen, D. (2007). Analysis of cutting skills in four and six year olds attending nursery schools in Johannesburg. South African Journal of Occupational Therapy. 37. 4-9.
Ratcliffe, I., Franzsen, D., & Bischof, F. (2010). Development of a scissors skills programme for grade 0 children in South Africa - A pilot study. South African Journal of Occupational Therapy. 41. 24-31.
Smith, Barbara A. MS, OTR/L. From Rattles to Writing – A Parent’s Guide to Hand Skills. 2011. Therapro Inc.
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