Teach Cutting Skills to Preschoolers with these Four Basic Strategies

Teach Cutting Skills to Preschoolers with these Four Basic Strategies
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Adaptations to Teach Correct Scissors Grasp - Readiness Skills

Many pre-school aged children find using scissors to be awkward and challenging. However, using the following activities to improve cutting skills for students with special needs will help young children with or without disabilities to correctly grasp and control scissors. The first step toward achieving scissors success is to determine if a child has the following readiness skills.

The child should be able to show the following readiness skills in preparing to use scissors:

  • Demonstrate an interest in cutting rather than ripping paper
  • Comprehend safety rules such as avoiding fingers between blades and never pointing scissors at other people
  • Have the coordination to move the two loop handles apart and together
  • Be able to use hands together so that one hand grasps the paper while the other hand snips.

Using the Correct Type of Scissors

The next consideration is what type of scissors to use. There are many pre-school scissors on the market that are small but may not be small enough for a three or four- year- old child who is just learning how to open and close the blades while at the same time moving across paper. For this reason, occupational therapist, Mary Benbow designed Learning Scissors sometimes called “Benbow” scissors that are very small and easy to control. These and the following scissors are sold in therapy and special education catalogs/ websites and some educational stores. Other types of scissors to consider include:

  • Self-opening scissors- open automatically after the snip, eliminating the need to coordinate both opening and closing motions.
  • Loop or Squeeze scissors- These are sometimes called “easy grip” scissors because all the child needs to do is squeeze the one large loop handle. These are also self-opening.
  • Dual control scissors- have four holes that allow an adult and child to grasp at the same time as the child learns the motions.


Demonstrating the Correct Grasp of the Scissors

Show the child how to grasp the scissors properly with the middle finger and thumb in the loops with the thumb nail pointing up to the sky. The index finger helps to stabilize the lower loop. The wrist should be almost straight (not bent like a hook). You can encourage the child to keep the thumb facing upward by drawing a dot on the thumb nail. Then tell the child that the dot needs to be facing the sky.

Try this strategy to encourage correct wrist position- tape the top of a piece of paper to a wall, showing the child how to cut from the bottom. As the child cuts upward he will be unable to “hook” the wrist. This is good. The following rhyme also encourages correct hand position for cutting and can be sung while cutting or pretending to cut:

  • Two finger on the bottom
  • And the thumb on top.
  • Open the mouth and go
  • Chop, chop, chop


Graded Cutting Activities - Using Types of Paper

Many young children enjoy cutting play dough snakes. When a child is ready to use paper- offer thick, sturdy paper such as a manila folder or index card. First offer narrow strips so that one snip will cut off a piece. Gradually provide larger pieces of paper- showing the child how to use the helping hand to move the paper while keeping the cutting hand in approximately the same spot. As skill improves draw a bold line over the crease of a greeting card. This visual cue will help the child learn how to cut on a line.

Once a child has learned these basic skills, she will be ready to cut curved lines, circles and other large shapes. Four and five year-old children are often ready to cut smaller shapes and explore the many exciting paper crafts that require cutting with precision.

Use of adapted scissors and creative, graded activities to improve cutting skills helps students master scissors' usage while keeping them safe and engaged as they develop fine-motor skill.

Visual of Student Using Benbow Scissors