Homeschool Preschool: Scissor Skills

As your preschooler gets toward the upper-end of the preschool age, you'll want to begin introducing scissor skills. Using scissors with ease is a life skill, and one that gives young children a real feeling of accomplishment. Working with scissors also aids in general fine motor skills - which means learning to use scissors helps children learn to write, too.

When to Give Your Child Scissors

Every child is different, so it's impossible to say when your child should begin working with scissors. However, by kindergarten all children should have at least rudimentary scissor skills. The only way to know if your child is ready for scissors is to give him a chance to work with them. Give him lots of help, lots of patience, and very simple projects. As your child's skill increases, the difficulty of the projects can, too.

Spring scissors are the best first scissors.
Choosing Scissors

I believe the best first scissors are those with spring action - which means the scissors themselves spring back open after your child has pushed them closed. Closing scissor blades is relatively easy for small children, but opening them back up is much harder. I often see this type at the Dollar Tree (in fact, that's where ours came from), but you'll also find them at educational stores and online. Once your child has stronger fine motor skills, you can move her on to traditional childhood scissors. Both types of scissors come in left and right hand varieties. Avoid the ambidextrous type; they are more difficult to use.

Once you get the scissors home, please be sure to try them out yourself. If the blades are so dull you can't cut with them, your child won't be able to, either.

Finally, no matter what scissors you choose, always make sure your child holds them correctly: The thumb through one hole and either just the middle finger or the middle finger and the index finger through the other hole.

First Projects

* Start slow and tell your child "open, close" as he cuts.

* Roll some playdough into thin strips and have your child cut through the dough at intervals.

* Hold a piece of construction paper rigid for your child and have her cut off the corners. Keep going until there is no paper left (or your child looses interest).

* Cut long, thin rectangles out of construction paper. Make them narrow enough your child can cut through the narrow side with just one cut, then have your child cut the rectangles into lots of little squares. If desired, you can put stickers at intervals across the paper and have your child cut between them. For a more advanced activity, make the rectangles wider, so your child must use more than one cut to get across the narrowest part of the paper.

* If you have paint chips laying around - the type with more than one color on the card - have your child cut out each color.

* Make paper "grass." Cut a rectangle from green construction paper, then show your child how to make short cuts on one long end to create "blades" of grass. This "grass" can then be pasted onto a piece of paper as the start of a painting, drawing, or collage.

Cutting feathers is a good beginner's activity.
* Make "feathers." Cut a piece of paper in the shape of a feather, fold it in half, then have your child make short snips into the paper to create the individual feathers.

* Have your child cut a soft (not rigid) plastic straw into approximately 1 in. pieces. The pieces can then be strung onto yarn and made into a necklace.

* Give your child a paper muffin cup and show her how to cut straight lines toward the center, creating "flower petals." If desired, she can then paste this "flower" onto paper and draw a stem and leaves.

All beginning projects should have straight (not curved) cuts. Show your child how to hold the paper in one hand while cutting with the other - being careful to keep little fingers out the way. DLTK has some simple, free, printable sheets for working on straight (and curved) lines, as does Kids Learning Station. Family's and Children's Trust also offers a free .PDF with tips for teaching scissor skills.

For all these beginning projects, choose firm paper (like construction paper), which is easier to handle than thinner paper, such as copy paper. Avoid cardstock or cardboard at first; it's more difficult to cut through.

You don't need to purchase a book with cutting projects in it, but you might want to. My experience with these is that while the color pages are exciting to children, the projects are often less geared toward beginners and more appropriate for the kindergarten crowd. My First Book of Cutting is a great choice, however.

More Advanced Projects

After learning to cut straight lines, teach your child to cut angels by having him cut halfway across the paper in a straight line, then stop and turn the paper so he can cut a right angle. Slightly curvy lines can be next, followed by shapes and finally circles. Don't expect perfection. It will take several years for children to be able to cut out a "perfect" circle. (Actually, some adults can't even do that!)

More Articles in the Homeschool Preschool Series:

Why Homeschool Preschool? 
Thoughts on Readiness 
How Much Time? 
Colors & Shapes
The Balance Beam Game

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