As we all know cutting is a crucial skill for all kids to learn! Some students quickly acquire the ability to cut and some struggle with the task. To be successful with cutting a student needs to have visual motor skills, fine motor skills, hand strength, and bilateral coordination to name a few skills.
Here are NINE quick tricks to help each child learn how to cut correctly and more independently.
- Teaching order: ripping, snipping, straight lines, zig zag lines, curved lines/shape, right angles. Don’t expect a kid who cannot cut a straight line to cut out a complex shape for a project!
- Prompt for good shoulder positioning: if a child starts to wing their elbow out to the side, stick a folder under the arm to remind them to keep their elbow close to their body
- Remind them to use both hands, one for the scissors & 1 for the paper: Put stop signs/red marks/arrows at the corners of the paper in order to prompt each child to STOP & turn the paper at corners or end of a line. You can also use stickers as targets to help them remember to move their hand forward along the paper
- Cue for grasp: If child is struggling to position the scissors correctly in the ‘thumbs up’ position, hold the paper above eye level or tape it to the wall so that the child is cutting upwards. You can also put a sticker or smiley face on their thumbnail to look at while cutting J Help your child keep the ring and little fingers tucked away by putting a little piece of paper or pompom under them.
- Position of paper: Encourage kids to hold the paper with the helper hand; thumb on top and fingers underneath the paper. They should have their hand in the middle of the line or shape for the most stability.
- Direction of cutting: Encourage kids to cut around shapes the correct way; right-handers should cut to the right of the shape and left-handers should cut to the left of the shape.
- Modify the lines: Start with thick, straight lines to and progress to thinner lines. You can also highlight lines, draw over them in thicker marker or crayon, or turn dotted lines into solid lines. If a shape is in the middle of a page, draw a line from the edge of the paper into the shape.
- Modify paper: Have the student cut on card stock, construction paper, or old file folders instead of regular printer paper. The firmness of these materials makes cutting easier for a beginner because the paper doesn’t flop around as much. Also, providing a ½ sheet of paper or even a ¼ sheet of paper versus an entire page can also make it easier for a young student to manage!
- Change scissors: If you’ve tried our other tips and find the task is still difficult, there are modified scissors that can be used. Some options include: spring open scissors, mounted tabletop scissors, Benbow Learning Scissors, blunt-tipped Fiskar scissors, loop scissors, lefty scissors for left-handers, or SquEEzers Training Scissors!
Colleen Marshall MS, OTR/L & Kelsey Bradshaw OTS