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Importance of learning to cut

Dec 28, 2016

Scissor cutting is a much neglected skill. It does take a lot of time and patience and hence children often get given pre cut pictures or shapes to  speed up an activity. Learning the skill of holding scissors and cutting is closely linked to pencil control and handwriting.

There is a very good article written by Kimberly M. Wiggins OTR/L, Licensed Occupational Therapist at G & E Therapies on how scissor cutting affects child development:

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 trousers.
  • 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…

  1. Make sure your child has the proper hand placement.  My middle child is always turning his hand upside down so I keep reminding him/her , “Hey poppet, I need a thumbs up!” You can also put a marker dot, sticker or a smiley face on the child’s thumb and remind them it needs to point to the ceiling.
  1. Practice!  Here are some fun ideas that your child can use to practice proper scissor techniques…
  • Start by cutting something easy like playdough! Playdough also has other advantages- 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 blunt 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!
  • Straws
  • Wool
  • 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!  If you have not signed up for our Get ready for school pack, click here and receive a pack with cutting sheets, visual discrimination sheets and pencil control sheets to help you practice these all important skills.

 Get ready for school pack, click here


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