Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Scissor Skills - Progression and Cutting Challenges

Thinking about letting my son use scissors for the first time was very scary. I wasn't sure when to introduce them or even how. There was one thing I was sure of: I was scared my son would snip himself with the blades. Standing in front of an array of potential "skin snippers", I finally came home with a set of plastic Melissa & Doug scissors "guaranteed" to cut nothing but paper. I still hesitated. I tested them myself several times. They were light, a good size and true...they didn't snip me at all. In fact, it seemed a bit tough to even snip paper at times. That was back when my son was 3...and a half probably. I have since had no problem introducing scissors to my second-born...at the mere age of 2...and a half I think. Of course, having seen her brother happily cut paper all day made her very much interested in trying and no...it wasn't going to be using the plastic scissors; she finds them frustrating. She loves a good pink pair! :)

Stage 3: Cutting Strip 3/4in wide

Different schools and various teachers will introduce scissor skills in different manners. After years of trying, I've discovered which scissors seemed to work best and in which way to introduce them. I've also looked into scissor exercises for progression. Currently, Zahavah is snipping strips of paper. She is not yet at the stage where she could intentionally trim a circle out of a sheet of paper but cutting on straight lines through an entire sheet is possible. Below is how I've been proceeding with her to enhance her skills.

Stage 1: Cutting play dough sausages with scissors

Scissor Progression Adopted

-Cut playdough "worms/sausage" with plastic playdough scissors
(safest, smallest, lightest scissors. Great for teaching scissor motion and handling)

-Cut through a strip of paper that requires blades to open only once (about 1/2in wide)

-Cut through a strip of paper that requires blades to open twice (about 3/4in wide)

-Cut long straight lines or long diagonal lines (2+ snips)

-Cut zigzag lines (2+ snips)

-Cut curved shapes/lines such as circles, ovals, small spirals

-Cut square, rectangle, triangles and other simple shapes with lines

-Cut thicker paper (or folded paper such as "snowflakes"), cut from the middle of the page, cut other material, cut own designs and cut using "fantasy" scissors

As far as scissors goes, we really like Montessori Services' Perfect Child-Size Scissors (light, durable, short, sharp but not too sharp, blunt tip...). The kids also like my old pair of Acme scissors. Can't find these anywhere now. They look a lot like Westcott's Classic 5in Blunt tip ones but after buying a pair, the feel is different. They are longer, heavier, harder to open and close and their handles are bigger. My son uses them but my daughter went back to my old pair...As she gets older, she won't mind but for now, it's a bit much.

Cutting Challenge : Cutting different lines and cutting different materials

Every so often, I treat the kids to a special activity: a cutting challenge! My son can never get enough of them! It's always fun for kids to test their skills I guess! During our latest challenge, I gathered different materials for the kids to cut. I drew various geometrical shapes on the materials for Adrian and kept them blank for the little one. She simply had to try her best and see what she could cut through! :)

Challenge content & Shapes:

-aluminum foil (stars)
-cereal box cardboard (pentagons, octagons, hexagons, ovals)
-parchment paper (crescent, half & full moons)
-craft foam sheet (triangles)
-acrylic felt sheet (squares)
-ribbon (rectangles)

The cutting challenge was well received. My son ended being able to cut through everything. Felt was the toughest and straws were the funniest as they popped all over the place. As for Z, she delighted in the crinkly foil. She tried all the materials but preferred the dough, foil and straws.

Below, a picture of yet another cutting challenge I hosted for the kids. This one contained bubble wrap, burlap, latex balloons, halved styrofoam cup, beaded ribbon, make-up remover pads and construction paper (a piece/fantasy scissors). My son made his way through everything although some materials posed a certain degree of resistance. My 3 year old found that most materials were very difficult this time but had a blast with the styrofoam and fantasy scissors. She made sure to try all the materials though.

Another cutting challenge offered: different materials and scissors

It's now your turn to host your own cutting challenge at home. I am working on preparing a new one...because demand is high for such treats in this house! :)

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  1. Thank you for this break down and progress of how you started your little ones with scissors! My daughter is still a bit young, but I have pinned this post as a reminder when we are ready to start exploring cutting! :)

    1. I'm glad the post as helpful. I read a lot on the topic and researched quite a bit before my son started cutting so my daughter, in many ways, benefitted a lot from his learning and my tweaking the sequence. I thought I'd share "the final sequence" and save some work for other parents. :)

  2. My son recently turned 4 but I was always afraid to let him use scissors and he isn't that great at cutting. I recently bought a preschool practice scissors skills workbook on Amazon but I really like the idea of having him cut through different materials! Thanks so much for the ideas!

    1. If letting your son using scissors really stresses you like it stressed me, start with plastic scissors that cut only paper like Melissa & Doug's. I felt more comfortable letting my son learn the motions with those since he was having some muscle problems in his hands and fingers. Once I saw he knew how to handle scissors and could cut, we transferred to blunt tip, 4" blade scissors. It took about a year (from 4 to 5 years old) for him to strengthen his hands and fingers enough to be "an expert cutter". We did lots of exercises (Theraputty for hand strength for example) but it paid off. He can cut very well now and adores it.

  3. I love your ideas of letting them try on different materials! I think I finally find a way of using my long saved-for-recycled items (lazy me to bring them to recycle centre). And I wont throw away small pieces of bubble wraps, alum foil from now on! I think i will save these scraps of wraps, foil and so on in a ziplock bag and throw a cutting challenge when the bag is full!

    1. I bet it will make them happy to cut through all these materials anyway! Children delight in trying their skills in different items. My son had a grand time cutting the straw for example and seeing it pop everywhere. Something he loves to this day! Pure discovery and yet, it teaches them a lot about applying pressure and how to operate scissors... Have fun!