Occupational Therapist Team
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As part of developing ‘desk top’ type skills for school, learning to use scissors is very helpful for a range of reasons. Scissor skills:
- Require focus and attention;
- Practice the same muscles used to hold a pencil;
- Strengthen muscles that open and close the palm arch;
- Promote maturity of hand skill, separation of the two sides of the hand; the manipulation/control side which includes the thumb and index finger, and the stabilising side of the hand, which involves the remaining fingers.
- Provide opportunity to practice using two hands together, carrying out different movements
- Require visual tracking skills
The correct hand position for cutting out, is ‘thumbs up’. The dominant hand holds the scissors in a fixed position in front of the chest while the stabilising hand moves the paper around. It is easier for the middle finger to be placed in the lower scissor handle while the index finger guides in front of it. This is tricky to master! Cutting success is dependent on how well the stabilising hand moves the paper around. Children with lower strength in their palm and forearm tend to drift to a ‘palm up’ position, then the scissors bend or tear paper. Ideally the thumb should be on top! If a child is struggling with this, they need to work on earlier stage activities, e.g. snipping straws and playdough and doing other palm and thumb, index finger opposition strengthening activities before moving on.
Tips for easier cutting with scissors
1) Straight line
After a child masters snipping the next stage is pushing the scissors forward while cutting. Heavy weight paper is best because it doesn’t flop, easier to control. Keep it around the size of your child’s hand. Draw thick straight double lines. Activities such as ‘driving a car on the road’ or ‘train along the tracks’, help to keep them within the lines.
2) Gentle curve
Once your child is confident cutting along within the straight lines, they can progress to a gentle curved line. Keeping the scissors open around half way using small open close movements gives increased control. Following a curved line requires turning the paper with the other hand.
3) Turning corners
A square the size of a child’s palm is a good starting point for practicing moving the paper. Once the corner is reached, the paper has to be turned so the blades are pointing to the next corner. Double lines can be used, from this point, progression to a thick 10mm line will help your child feel successful ‘cutting along the line’.
Simple shapes with less angles are easier to cut. As your child becomes more confident cutting with heavy weight paper, they can graduate to regular paper. The larger the paper, the more manipulation control of paper is required while cutting with the other hand, so the higher the level of difficulty. To help children build confidence, you can draw over simple print out shapes with a thick line and gradually reduce the thickness as they improve.
This site has some good cutting activities that can be printed out:
As always you are very welcome to contact the Centre to ask about our Occupational Therapy services on 9274 7062.