One of my favourite little crafty tricks is making paper snowflakes. With just a couple of folds and some snippety snips... voila, you can unfold a little surprise. The magic is all in the cutting.
Cutting with scissors seems like such an ordinary, intuitive activity, and as adults we do it every day. But using scissors is a life skill that children need to learn, and for many it can be quite tricky.
As your child grows and explores their world they’re instinctively building hand strength and developing fine motor skills. As they poke at and pick up finger food, play with blocks or scratch an itch they’re giving their little fingers a workout. When they squeeze open a clothes’ peg or pair of tongs, or use a spray bottle to squirt water, they’re making the type of repetitive pincer movement they will need for scissors.
Many children will feel ready to have a go at using scissors around 3 years old. You can start your pre-schooler’s scissor journey with a pair of blunt nosed scissors. I find that there are lots of different types of children’s scissors available in stationery or art supply shops these days. Some are traditionally shaped, others have a more tweezer type action. There are even scissors with a grasp release motion where a soft spring automatically re-opens the blades after a child has closed them. Using scissors that are designed for left-handers may avoid some frustration if your child is clearly showing a hand preference.
It’s great to model cutting skills to your children, and making something together is the perfect way to do just that - also shows them that being creative is something to be valued. Cutting snowflakes from folded paper squares is a great way to show off your own dazzling scissor skills – be sure to share add some theatre to the “dah dah!” moment of unfolding a snowflake.
It’s best to demonstrate scissors while sitting beside (and not opposite) your child. They can then see what you are doing at each step from the right perspective. It’s also helpful to talk them through the process, describing how you are opening and closing the scissors “like a crocodile's mouth" as you “snip, snip, snip”.
A proper scissor grasp involves:
- Thumb in one hole, and middle finger through the other.
- The index finger may rest on the outside of the scissors, or sit in the same hole as the middle finger.
Snipping playdough is a great way for children to start trying scissors. Once they (and you!) feel comfortable you can move to thin paper strips that can be satisfyingly sliced with just one snip (with the addition of a sheet of paper and glue stick you’re halfway to a pasting activity). Gradually children will move to cutting straight lines across a sheet of paper, then learn to navigate curves. All the while they'll be learning to hold the paper steady in their other hand.
Talk about scissor safety right from the start – their teachers may well thank you in years to come!
Explain to your little ones that they should:
- only use scissors at a table
- never walk or run with scissors
- always pass scissors with the blades held closed and the handles facing outward
- use them only for cutting paper