Cutting with scissors may seem like a simple activity for us, but it requires more fine motor control than we would think. In this article, we will be talking about the benefits of practising scissors skills and different stages of exposing a child to the use of scissors.
Cutting is an activity that helps young children develop independent movements of each finger and helps them strengthen their hand muscles. They also get to work on bilateral coordination as they have to manipulate the scissors in one hand and adjust the paper with the other. Additionally, the positioning of the scissors in a child's hand also helps them work on the tripod grasp. This, in a way, is a precursor to handwriting skills and is therefore important. Cutting, along with coloring, also helps prolong focus and attention.
When a child is first introduced to the scissors, they may use both hands to cut. They could begin with blunt plastic scissors and cut rolled play dough. When moving on to paper, the paper can be held by you and angled in a way that is easy for them to cut. After they understand the concept, they will then be able to learn to do it with one hand.
Practise opening and closing of hands with your child as that is required when opening and closing scissors. To do this, let them explore and play with salad tongs, squishy balls or clothes pegs to train those muscles.
Then, the child learns to hold the scissors in one hand and make short, individual snips. After this stage is mastered, the child then learns to snip forward. This does not have to be continuous snips yet, but it serves to prepare them to cut along a straight line.
Following which, the child learns to move the scissors along a straight line that is about 15cm long. It is alright if it is not accurately on the line; cutting up to half an inch away from the line is acceptable. At this point, you should be fading the aid of holding the paper for them.
The next stage of cutting would be to aim for within ¼ of an inch away from the cutting line. Using a thick bold line would be good when practising with your child.
The next stage is a much bigger jump from before. Cutting curved lines require a lot more control of the scissors. This curved line does not necessarily have to be too challenging, but it serves to prepare the child for cutting shapes like circles.
As you may have guessed, the next stage is to cut a circular shape. This circle should not be too small, and a size of approximately 6 inches in diameter would be good. Like with straight lines, aim for ½ an inch around the cutting line, and then ¼ inch eventually.
Finally, the child should be able to cut out more complex shapes such as figures. It is important to remember that each child progresses at their own pace and it may not be age specific, but as long as they progress according to these stages, it should not be too stressful for them.
If a child still has difficulties, get a pair of scissors with a spring so that it will help them learn the feeling of opening and closing the scissors. This also helps if they lack the required strength to open and close manually at this point.
Last but not least, always remember to put safety first! All practice should be done under close adult supervision! To see progress in cutting, you may have to be patient because it is a skill that requires the engagement of many muscles that a child does not often use. Happy crafting!
Written by Claudie.