Scissor skills are a typical activity taught in every classroom. Using scissors successfully is almost a rite of passage for any child. Especially those who have ‘accidently’ cut off a chunk of their hair, or even better, their sibling’s hair! In this post we give six simple tips for teaching scissor skills to children who are finding learning to cut with scissors more difficult. These tips can be used for any child, not just those who are struggling with their scissor skills.
1. Ensure the child is holding both the paper and the scissors
This might sound quite obvious, but it is a common error I see in the classroom. Often the adult will ‘help’ the child by holding the paper and just letting them use the scissors. In order to be successful with scissor skills, children need to learn to use both of their hands together. They need to know that the scissor needs to line up with the paper. They must be able to hold the paper steady and in the right position for the scissors. If the adult is holding the paper for the child, then they don’t learn scissor skills correctly.
When helping a child learn to use scissors, make sure you help them use both hands. If they need help holding the paper, instead of holding the paper for them support their second hand to hold the paper. This will help them to learn that they need to use both hands together when cutting.
2. A child that has their thumbs facing the ceiling will develop more mature scissor skills
It is essential that the child has their thumbs facing the ceiling. This tip applies to both hands. For the hand holding the scissors the child must hold their thumb facing up towards the ceiling. This means their little finger will face the floor. They must also position the hand holding the paper in this way as well. So, their thumb will be on the top of the paper and their fingers will be underneath. As the child’s scissor skills mature they will hold the paper in their finger tips.
Frequently you will see children turn their hand over, so their fingers are on the top of the paper. This reduces the movement and control they have over their hands when cutting. The result is the child has less control when they move the paper and scissors. Their hand position restricts the amount of movement available. Therefore, it is extremely important that the thumbs of both hands face the ceiling.
3. Double check the child is looking at what they are doing when they are cutting with scissors
This might sound obvious, but it is essential to check. Too often I have watched adults helping children with their scissor skills where the child is not paying any visual attention to the activity. The adult is supporting them hand over hand. The child’s hands are making some movements. However, the child is not looking at what they are cutting. A child will never be successful or accurate with their cutting unless they are looking at the scissors and paper whilst they are cutting.
4. Start learning scissor skills with BBQ tongs
For children that are really struggling to co-ordinate the idea of squeezing scissors, tongs can be a nice place to start. Reaching out for things with BBQ tongs can be a lot of fun! As can snapping onto things. Using kitchen tongs is a good next step. Then the child can use ice tongs as these are smaller and a similar size to scissors. Once the child has the ides of squeezing and better hand control they could also try tweezers. So whilst it might feel like a sideways step, using tongs and tweezers can be great way to help a child practice the hand movements required for scissor skills.
5. Consider self-opening or spring loaded scissors
If the child is really struggling to use scissors with one hand, purchase a pair of self-opening scissors. These scissors have a spring in them that makes them automatically open. The benefit of this is that the child doesn’t have to focus on the opening and closing part of cutting. It means they can learn to line up the scissors with the thing they are cutting. The child can practice this without having to coordinate the opening and closing. It allows them to practice using both hands together. And it gives them an opportunity to practice their scissors skills without being as frustrated.
The long term goal would be for these children to use standard scissors. However, self-opening scissors can be a great starting point for children that just can’t organise cutting with standard scissors. They are also good for children who lack the hand strength to open and close standard scissors.
We highly recommend the PETA scissors as they are high quality. They also come with left and right handed options for most versions. Their loop scissors come in a variety of sizes which are suitable for children of different ages. Obviously the smaller ones are most suited to children with smaller hands. The 5cm blade is then suitable for most other children. Please note we have no affiliation with PETA and make this recommendation solely from personal experience and satisfaction with using the product.
6. Most importantly – ensure that the child has the correct scissors for their handedness
It is essential to ensure that left handed children have left handed scissors. This is not negotiable! We discuss the difference between right and left handed scissors here in this post. It is difficult for a left handed child to see what they are cutting if they are using standard scissors. Make sure all adults are aware of the left handed children in the classroom. In addition, as the left handed scissors usually have a different colour handle to right handed scissors, teach each child what colour scissors they need to choose from an early age. You can learn more about the differences between right and left handed scissors here.
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