What I Wish Every Parent Knew: Scissors

This entry is part 3 of 4 in the series What I Wish Every Parent Knew

Core strength and fine motor skills are both critical for a child’s development and learning. One specific fine motor skill that deserves special attention is scissors skills. Using scissors is not the be-all-end-all of a child’s success in school! However, it is important that children master the ability to use scissors not only so they can confidently participate in crafty projects throughout their education, but also to help develop their hands.

Scissors are one of the easiest, most motivating, versatile activities your child can do because scissors help to develop several components of fine motor skills:

  • thumb muscle strength – primarily the thumb “web space” between the thumb and pointer finger; strength here promotes a functional grasp
  • hand strength – for all the multitude of tasks you do with your hands, including using a functional grasp
  • bilateral (two hand) coordination – using your two hands together in a controlled and coordinated manner is necessary for so many tasks
  • eye-hand coordination or visual-motor integration – this component is also critical for pre-printing and printing
  • the skill and stability sides of the hand – the thumb, pointer and middle finger make up the “skill” side of the hand or the “smart fingers” that do the work; the fourth and fifth fingers provide stability within the hand so the smart fingers can do their job.  If either of these sides is poorly developed, overall fine motor skills are compromised.

FAQ about scissors… When should you encourage your child to start using scissors?

  • A good indication of scissors readiness is when he/she is able to use a spoon or fork properly – around age 2 for most children
  • Once he/she shows an interest! Girls are typically interested earlier than boys.
  • Once he/she starts to show hand dominance – where one hand usually does the work while the other hand usually stabilizes or helps.
  • Once he/she is able to move the index and middle fingers without too much movement in the ring and pinky fingers.

What scissors should a child use?

  • Scissors with small same-size holes are the easiest for the child to move and control, and promote the proper scissors grasp: thumb and third finger in the holes, the pointer finger resting comfortably on the shaft and the fourth/fifth fingers gently curled. This position capitalizes on the strength and control of the longest strongest finger, promotes proper separation of the skill and stability sides of the hand, and gives the thumb web space the best work-out!
  • Child-type scissors with a larger bottom loop are actually not good for hand development or development of scissors skills because the bottom loop is so large, the child must use all fingers in the loop. This decreases the stability in the hand, not only for scissors tasks but other tasks requiring use of the hand. Some children are able to cope with such scissors, but for children with fine motor problems or problems with hand development, these scissors can prevent them from being successful.

scissors-fine-motor-skills.jpg How can I assist my child?

  • Cue your child or help him/her use the proper scissors position.
  • The loops go on the fingers up to the first knuckle joint only – draw faces on fingers and put only the “heads” into the loops!
  • Remind your child to hold scissors “tips up” and “thumbs up” and the paper in a thumbs-up position. A thumbs-down position in either the scissors-hand or helper-hand reduces control, accuracy and speed.
  • Keep cutting up and let the helper-hand move the paper!
  • Cue your child to keep the elbow down – don’t let it flap out like a chicken wing!
  • If your child seems to be left-handed, ensure that you have left-handed scissors available.
  • Put scissors out of reach so that they may only be used with supervision.

Fine-Motor-Skills-Scissors What to cut…

If your child can snip:

  • Cut straws to make “rocket ships”(this encourages children to hold the scissors perpendicular to the material and they are rewarded with the straw flying off when they get the hang of it!)
  • Roll playdoh snakes then snip
  • Cut licorice, gum sticks, fruit leather, cheese strings and other foods
  • Cut paper food (bananas, carrots, etc. that are just wide enough that one snip will cut off a piece)
  • Make money or tickets and use in pretend play
  • “Feed” a toy animal snips of paper
  • Make a cutting box in which child can sit and snip without making a mess!
  • Have a cutting picnic – sit on a blanket and snip away (make “snow”!), then shake off the blanket to clean up.  Snip toy flyers!
  • Snip a fringe around a paper plate
  • Take paper to the coffee table and fringe it as decoration

If your child can make multiple snips:

  • Cut gummy bears in half and stick at the top of paper – cut up to get the treat!
  • Cut up to a sticker
  • Tape paper to the coffee table then sit on the floor and cut up – this is beginning bilateral (two hand) control
  • Put reinforcers/desirable objects in envelope or bag, and cut open!
  • Cut open food packages
  • Cut between popsicle sticks, tape “tracks”, rows of staples or along hole-punched line
  • Get paint colour samples then cut between the colours
  • Cut old cards and flyers or other recycling
  • Fold paper or large coffee filters and snip pieces out, unfold and voila – snowflakes!

If your child can follow a path:

  • progress from straight to curved to wavy to zigzag lines
  • make hair with strips of finely cut paper and glue on pictures
  • cut strips, staple in rings and make a paper garland
  • sun rays
  • from dot-to-dot, sticker to sticker, hole to hole or stamp to stamp
  • draw simple shapes around picture and cut out
  • do a maze, then cut along the path

Help your child make the most of his/her fine motor skills – use SCISSORS!!

Recommendation: I highly recommend the Spectrum Ed Snippy Scissors Classroom Pack – you get $12 in a box for $12.50 plus shipping. They can be used with right or left hand and are very durable. I find there’s a high attrition rate for scissors in my home so I’ve gone through a couple boxes already so even though you’re buying bulk, it’s worth it.

Nicole Rowan
By day, Nicole is a mother to three awesome kids ages 9, 7 and 4, and a pediatric Occupational Therapist to hundreds of other people’s kids. She could be accurately described as an award-winning OT who loves to have fun while doing good, hard work. By night, Nicole is *the* thrifting style blogger of Edmonton and two-time Yeggies nominee, sharing her love of thrifting and other spirited adventures!
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Found in Back to School, Kids