Monday, August 27, 2018

CUT IT OUT! Helping Your Child with Scissor Skills

This blog explains some of the activities I demonstrate on this Youtube video I made to help parents work with their child on scissor skills. Please feel free to share it with your families on your classroom website or blog. You might even 
find an idea or two that you can use in your classroom!

Cut It Out! 

Helping Your Child with Scissor Skills


Fine motor skills involve the small muscles in the hands. Learning to control their hands is important for eye-hand coordination and every day tasks such as dressing, eating, brushing teeth, etc. Small motor activities also nurture bilateral coordination – using both sides of the body at one time to perform a task. Cutting may sound simple to an adult, but using both hands to do different things as you cut is a complex skill for young children.

Providing children with a wide variety of activities and multiple materials at home will help them feel competent and capable when they start school and they are expected to write, draw, and cut with scissors. Blocks, dressing toys, puzzles, stringing beads, play dough, crayons and markers, sand and water toys, cooking activities, construction toys, and clapping games and finger plays are meaningful ways that children develop small motor skills naturally as they play.

Observe children as they are engaged in cutting and other small motor activities. You can almost see their brains “firing off” as their minds and bodies work in unison. You’ll often see their tongues moving as they concentrate. As children cut, draw, and work with their hands it’s good for their brains, self-regulation, and a sense of competence.

Many teachers have noticed a decline in children’s fine motor skills over the years. “Tap and swipe” just doesn’t activate the brain and hand muscles like cutting and drawing and building and stringing. Activities involving scissors and fine motor skills can be a fun way for parents to interact with their children. In addition, they are a great balance to “screen time” because they are real, active, and hands-on!

You want your child ready for success at school by purchasing the backpack, school supplies, packing their lunch, and dressing them properly. You can also help your child get ready for this big step by practicing scissor skills.


*Supervise! Make a cutting tub for your child with a plastic tub and a pair of safety scissors. (Act like it is a gift for your child when you present it to him or her.)

Model, model, model!  Demonstrate these activities and get the child started by engaging with them and carrying on a conversation. Vary the materials in the tub to keep them interested.

*Once the child is familiar with the cutting tub you can take it out upon their request or to entertain them when you are busy.

*Discuss rules for using scissors. No cutting hair, clothes, or anything that is not in the cutting tub.

*Set realistic expectations. Children have to crawl before they can walk, and they have to do a lot of tearing and snipping before they can cut out a shape. Follow their lead and let natural development unfold.

Getting Ready

Picking up a pair of scissors is probably something you don’t have to think about, but children will need some guidance is how to hold scissors correctly.

Thumbs Up – put a sticker or draw a face on the thumb to remind them to keep it on top. Put a ribbon or colorful tape on the hole where the thumb should go.


Helper Hand – Explain that one hand will cut and the other hand will be the “helper” and hold the paper. “Show me your cutting hand. Show me your helper hand.”

Open and Shut – Practice opening and shutting the scissors and pretending it’s an alligator taking little bites. (Working with tongs or tweezers can help this motion.)

Flying Elbows – Children have a tendency to flap their arms when they cut. Encourage them to keep their elbows at their sides. You can also wad up a sheet of paper to go under each arm to stabilize the forearms.

Let’s Begin!

Tearing – Children need opportunities to tear before we ask them to cut. Start with thin paper like tissue paper and magazines and progress to thicker paper like cardstock, cardboard, and paper plates.
Encourage children to make small tears to make confetti. Let them fill a water bottle with the little pieces to make a shaker. Or, let them glue the confetti to a paper plate to make a collage.

Snipping– Give children thicker paper (such as construction paper, index cards, or grocery bags) to begin snipping. They can practice opening and closing the scissors as they make fringe.
*Strengthen muscles by cutting play dough.

*Give them 1” strips so they can snip through.

*Let them snip straws or yarn.
*Offer paper plates, greeting cards, wrapping paper, food boxes, and other types of paper in keep children interested.

*Collect natural objects like pine straw, leaves, and flowers for them to cut.

Lines– Draw lines on heavy paper for children to practice cutting lines.

*Draw “paths” about 1” to ½” wide for children to cut between.
*Make dots (use stickers) for children to follow and cut lines.

*Cut up junk mail into strips.

*Ask children to cut out triangles, squares, and shapes with straight lines.

*Have children cut coupons out of the newspaper.

Curves- Have children cut on curved lines.

*Let them cut out complex shapes or objects from magazines or advertisements. (Toys are always fun!)

*Have children trace around cookie cutters and then cut out the shapes.

*Encourage children to do creative activities by providing them with paper, markers, yarn, and a wide variety of art media.

It’s the Process, Not the Product!

Early childhood teachers will agree that when it comes to drawing, cutting, and creating it’s the process, not the product. Your child might not be Edward Scissorhands, but she’ll certainly feel more comfortable and competent when she’s handed a pair of scissors at school!

Here's Kalina and I singing "Scissor Snip."