The ability to use scissors is part of school participation. More importantly, the development of good scissor skills can help improve specific skills needed for good handwriting. The ability to open and close the web space, the active use of one side of the hand only, and the motor planning of the process contribute to the development of a functional pen/pencil grasp. Cutting also provides a good reward for the child. They really feel they have achieved something when they see the different shapes of paper, cardboard or other material that they have created.
Children differ widely in their ability to use scissors.
Correct scissor position is where the thumb is placed in the top loop and the index or index finger and middle finger in the other loop. Some people prefer to use the middle finger instead of the index finger. The fingers not in loops are curved in against the palm. The thumb side of the hand is active in the cutting process while the other side remains passive. Using the two sides of the hand in two different ways can be a challenge for some children. For children having difficulty with handwriting, practice in using the scissors with the index finger in the lower loop can help the child to develop a more functional pencil grasp.
Cutting with scissors also helps children develop bilateral skills. The non dominant had guides the paper. The two hands are performing different tasks but working together.
By the age of 4 a child is expected to be able to cut along straight lines with accuracy and to cut curves and corners with some error. They should also be moving the paper with the non dominant hand for positioning of the scissors but may still find this a little akward. By the age of 6 a child should be able to cut a range of shapes smoothly and with accuracy and use their hands in a co-ordinated fashion
What if my child has difficulty with scissor skills?
In itself, it may not matter. It may just mean that your child has a little more difficulty when cutting is required at school. However, serious difficulty with using scissors often goes along with a general difficulty with fine motor skills, and possibly handwriting. If that is the case, occupational therapy can help.
You can help your child improve their scissor skills but proving a range of materials to cut for example different weights of cardboard, paper, play dough, straws etc. Also using a variety of different types of scissors can help to develop these skills.
Left handed children may have trouble with ordinary scissors although most seem to manage. You can purchase left handed scissors or you can just try turning the scissors upside down which seems to help some children.
Practice in cutting with scissors can help small children to develop their fine motor skills. It is also fun! Be patient it can take time for little ones to get the idea! Start with safety scissors and something firm (but not too firm) to cut like a thinner style of cardboard. You can make it more fun by drawing a picture on the paper or cardboard first. You can draw a road and pretend that the scissors are a car or a truck. Stay on the road!
Snipping can be a good way to start, for example, snipping straws, the side of a paper cup or your junk mail!
If your child has difficulty with cutting and you are concerned about their general fine motor skills you can contact Childworks to arrange an assessment.