Skilled scissor use is an important part of many early childhood projects.

Instructions on Teaching Toddlers to Use Scissors

by Daisy Peasblossom Fernchild

According to Gander Therapies, toddlers and older children use several essential motor skills while cutting with scissors, including bilateral hand-eye coordination. But any parent or preschool teacher knows that teaching a toddler how to use a pair of scissors can become frustrating for both child and parent. Success depends upon keeping the sessions short, providing appropriate scissors, and giving your toddler easy, fun stuff to cut. Safety rules are also important.

1. Preliminary Exercises

Toddlers are just learning small motor coordination. Simple actions, such as opening and closing their hands or operating their thumbs and fingers independently, are skills that they are still learning. To help your toddler strengthen the muscles and develop the needed coordination to use scissors, recite silly rhymes with her such as "Open them, Close them, give a little clap. Open them, Close them, lay them in your lap." This rhyme, often used in daycare settings to get children ready to listen, encourages children to open their fingers wide and then close them up.

2. Choosing the Right Scissors

Check the scissors you give to your child to make sure they will actually cut. Although dull scissors might seem safer, they are actually very frustrating to a child who is trying to learn how to use them. Select scissors that have a rounded tip. If your child is left-handed, provide scissors that are suitable for left-handed people. If you are not sure about handedness, provide a pair that can be used either way. Loop scissors that are operated by squeezing the handles together and then releasing them are a good choice for early scissor use.

3. Selecting Cutting Materials

One material that can be cut with dull scissors is play dough. You can easily mold the dough into long strips or into a flat plane that your toddler can cut through with one firm snip. Card stock or stiff paper is usually easier to cut than thin paper, such as writing paper or pages out of magazines. As your child gains skill at cutting, you can upgrade the material to be cut. Material for early cutting projects does not need to be fancy. Discards from older children's projects, junk mail, old catalogs and similar sources can be used.

4. Safety Rules

Scissor safety is an important part of learning to use scissors. Encourage using the scissors in one place. Teach your toddler to hold the scissors by the closed blades if walking with them. Show her how to pass the scissors by passing them handles first to another person. Explain that scissors are always placed on a surface, or handed to another person -- they are never thrown. Scissors are used on the material provided, never on anything else. Provide a storage place that prevents accidental damage from scissor blades, such as a plastic school box or a cloth sack.

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