I accidentally found Clara holding a pair of kitchen scissors recently. At first, it freaked me out that she was flinging it around so casually and carelessly (and that she was now tall enough to reach the centre of the dining table!?), as she strong-willingly insisted that she could cut her own food. At 2.5 years old, she had an uneasy awkward grip with the confidence of an adult. That’s my threenager for you. This incident led me down a rabbit hole of reading, learning, and creating (new release: pizza cutting skills practice printables). I dived deep into learning about the importance of developing scissor skills and I was fascinated by what I learned.
Here’s what I know now about toddler and pre-school cutting skills —
Why are cutting skills an important part of development?
Cutting allows a child to build up the tiny muscles in the palm of his/her hand, since he/she has to continuously open and close the hand. These muscles are also used when the child is writing/painting or holding onto anything with a grip. For example, a child needs to hold onto a toothbrush, spoon or fork, and pull up their pants on a daily basis.
Cutting enhances the use of eye-hand coordination. This means that the child must be able to use his/her vision, process what they see, and then be able to move their hand while they are looking at something. This can be a difficult task because it requires the brain to be working with two systems. However, eye-hand coordination is used throughout your child’s day. It is used when your child catches or throws a ball, uses a spoon to scoop up the food that they want, and zips up his/her coat.
Cutting also encourages your child to use bilateral coordination. This means that your child can use both sides of their body at the same time. For example, when cutting a circle, a child must hold the paper with one hand (and continuously turn it) while the other hand is opening and closing the scissors and moving forward to cut. You may need to try this to understand the true meaning. Bilateral coordination (using both hands, while each one is doing something different) is used throughout everyday life. For example, it can be used when you are zipping up a coat or pants, washing dishes, opening up an envelope, and driving.
(Source: Kimberly M. Wiggins, OTR/L, is a licensed occupational therapist in New York)
The most important things to do are to observe your child for readiness for scissor cutting activities and then find an activity that captures your child’s attention.
Here are two fun cutting practice activities that were a hit for us:
Playdough Hair Cutting
Playdough (see my homemade no-cook playdough recipe) is the perfect choice for early cutting practice because it is soft and easy to cut. Plus the resistance of the playdough provides essential feedback to the child. Another advantage of using playdough for scissor cutting practice is that it is reusable and nothing goes to waste!
While rolling the playdough into a ‘snake’ is a good start, some children may not find this very interesting for long. This is where the magic of role play comes in! Using playdough ‘snakes’ as hair on dolls, you can create your own hair salon dramatic play area!
The 21cm Miniland Doll suited this activity perfectly as it doesn’t actually have hair which won’t get knotted in the playdough.
We had an absolute blast laughing about the different haircuts that hairdresser Clara gave her dolls.
It’s worth mentioning that you need to keep a very close eye on your budding hairdresser to ensure the only hair they cut is on their prop 😉
On the quest to find a printable that could provide fun cutting practice, I wasn’t satisfied with what I found so I made my own!
I know having pineapple on pizza is controversial but it is Clara’s most favourite pizza topping. I originally started with just a Hawaiian pizza but then I couldn’t help myself and I ended up with four different flavour variations!
The idea is that beginner cutters can be given the challenge of cutting straight lines to form pizza slices. More advanced cutters can cut around the pizza to master curved edges.
You can even incorporate the pizzas into a bit of dramatic play fun and set-up their very own pizza shop!
Have your kids mastered scissors cutting?
I’d love to hear about your tips, tricks and favourite activities for scissor skills and cutting practice. Leave a me a comment and let me know how you are going with teaching scissor skills!
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