SCISSORING SKILLS

SCISSORING SKILLS

Learning to use scissors in a correct and controlled way takes patience and a lot of practice. For grownups, this is sometimes a skill that we take for granted. Because this is now a simple skill for us, we might expect it to be a simple skill for children too. And, we can sometimes become frustrated when this skill doesn’t progress as quickly as we think it should.

This frustration can introduce angst in to the learning process, which is actually counterproductive for children. Sometimes we feel like we need to “show” children how it’s done for them to understand. But, using scissors effectively is the culmination of a coordination of fine motor skills that we have developed over time.

Proficient scissor use requires foundational components such as postural stability, hand strength and dexterity, hand-eye coordination, bilateral integration, sensory integration, sequencing, rhythm, and attention. These are skills that are also needed for success in play and learning.

Understanding the first steps to take and the path by which these skills progress helps us to be patient with children as they work toward their goals.

Stage 1 – Learning to hold the scissorsChildren typically can learn to hold scissors between 18 months to 2 years of age. During this stage they will begin by opening and closing scissors with two hands and move to a more mature grasp as time goes by. They may be able to snip paper or a string during this time, and it is often beneficial to practice using a “helping hand” to stabilize the paper while holding the scissors. Cutting at this stage will typically not be directional, and there may not be forward movement of the scissors. Children may also open and close the scissors in an exaggerated manner while they are learning to work with scissors.

Stage 2 – Cutting with lines and curvesChildren can progress to cutting straight lines and making curves between the ages of 2 and 4 years. During this stage they will typically start by using the scissors to push a cut across a sheet of paper. It is sometimes beneficial to have children practice cutting small strips of paper during this stage. Using a paper with a heavier weight will provide more stability, which lets the child focus more on operating the scissors, rather than holding the paper. These cuts are not likely to be highly accurate but children will typically be able to have some success with a straight line, and may even begin to turn a paper and make curved cuts as they progress.

Stage 3 – Accurately cutting curves and shapesBetween 4 and 5 years of age children will typically progress to a stage where they are able to cut accurately along curved lines and around shapes. They are able to turn and manipulate the paper as well as the scissors when they follow lines. They will often exercise better control as they open and close the scissors. This enhanced control typically produces smoother and less jagged cuts. At this point most children can work with various weights of paper and may even begin to be comfortable with non-paper materials.

Stage 4 – Mature manipulation and grasp. By ages 5 to 7 years children can generally progress to cutting complex shapes and figures. At this stage, their grasp of scissors and coordination between the cutting hand and the helping hand has become consistent. Most cuts will be made smoothly, without jagged edges or paper tears.

Appropriate expectations and practice are key factors in the progression of scissor skills. Many children progress differently based on their experiences at home or at preschool.

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