Cutting Skills Development. Cutting Sheets for Preschoolers

Cutting is the bomb for developing pencil grip and pencil control for handwriting.  If we can get our children to both master and enjoy cutting, we will go a long way to establishing the muscle and motor foundations for pencil grip.  We need to look for ways to improve cutting skills to pave the way to a lasting relationship between cutting skills and your child.  Applying a few fundamental principles when choosing cutting sheets for preschoolers will help set our children up for success.

Cutting skills developmentTo develop fine motor skills, we need an activity that requires repetition.  Muscles do not get strong if we exercise them once.  Most of us have at some time or other, embarked on either a gym membership or an intention to do crunches.  And they don't work.  Not because there is anything inherently wrong with either of them to achieve the desired goal, but simply because if we only do them a couple of times before life happens and they get pushed onto the back burner, they aren't going to help.  And that is why cutting is so good for muscle development.  The cutting motion requires that the hands open and close over and over and over again.  This means the muscles are working over and over and over again! And now we have a winner.

Skip to cutting skills development below if left-handed cutting vs right-handed cutting is not new to you

The first thing we need to be sure of when selecting a pair of scissors for our classrooms and for our children's stationery pack, is to know if they are right or left handed.  It is essential that lefties use left-handed scissors and right-handed children, those for right-handers.  There are scissors that are sold in educational toy shops that are labelled as being so-called "ambidextrous scissors."  Please do not be fooled by this marketing ploy!  If the right-hand blade is on top when the scissors are open, they are right-handed scissors.  No more discussion!  If you still need convincing, please keep on reading!

How to teach a child to cut with scissorsWhat makes a pair of scissors right or left, is the way the blades face.  Right-handed scissors have the right blade uppermost, while those for lefties have the left blade uppermost.  This is what distinguishes left from right scissors.  It has nothing to do with how the handles have been crafted for the comfort of either the left or right-handed child.

Cut with the wrong scissors, and the cutting blade will cover up the line.  This results in a jagged cutting quality that will leave the child wondering how on earth anyone else managed the smooth line.  There may be nothing wrong with their skills – it is simply the wrong tool for the job.  If a child is cutting with the incorrect pair of scissors, the blade will obstruct the cutting line.  There are ways to wangle your way around this.  But we do not want our children using a “work-around.”  Give them the right tools from the get-go and get them on the path to cutting skills development that is going to build a solid foundation for future pencil control.

Giving our children the wrong scissors causes frustration because the wrong tool stands in the way of their success.  We need to give them the right tools for the job if they are going to be achieving success in the critical skill.

Cutting skills development

When holding the scissors our children need to hold with "thumbs up!"  This is with both hands.  Take a look at this lovely smiley face idea to remind your child to keep their hand in the "thumbs up" position as they write.

How to improve cutting skills

If your children are not quite ready for learning to cut with scissors, focus on the pre-cutting skills for pre-schoolers which are going to build in the grasp-release motion for cutting.  Learn to Cut has put all these activities together in a reachable format for you.  Once you have done all that, do try and keep your children cutting.  Find fun cutting sheets that are in keeping with their interests and make sure they cut to the moon and back!

Selecting cutting sheets for preschoolers

If we embrace the fact that cutting prepares the hand muscles for pencil grip and pencil control, we need to be mindful of selecting cutting skills development activities which allow for the repetition required to develop those muscles.  It is this repetition that is critical when we look at how to improve cutting skills.

We need the ongoing repetitive action of the grasp-release motion to develop the muscles. If we select cutting sheets for preschoolers which require high levels of refined manipulation, we are going to forfeit the unique opportunity the grasp-release cutting motion offers us in terms of muscle development.

Principles for selecting cutting sheets for preschoolers

  1. Ensure the pre-cutting skills are well-developed before introducing cutting on lines.
  2. Choose activities with muscle development in mind.  See cutting skills activities as developing handwriting foundations rather than seeing them as a functional output skill.
  3. Use wide cutting lines.  The lateral scissor control will develop as the grasp-release motion improves. There is plenty of time to reduce the width of cutting lines.
  4. Avoid thin dotted lines with many directional changes.  Rather choose continuous wide lines that promote the repetition of the grasp-release action.
  5. Limit directional changes in the early stages.  Directional changes are great for building in the subtle wrist movements required for horizontal handwriting strokes.  Instead, save them for once the child has truly mastered the grasp-release cutting motion.

Cutting out handprints

I have a bit of a thing about this and will take the opportunity to get it off my chest! While handprint activities are cute and can be a lasting memory when we look back on our children’s development, they really are too complex for our preschoolers to cut out!  Cutting between the fingers requires complex manipulation of internal corners.  Also, our preschoolers have to get right down to the bottom between the fingers and turn the scissors, which is just developmentally way beyond their skillset for many of them.  Since cutting out the print yourself doesn’t help develop our children’s skills, it is probably best to draw a thick line around the outer shape of the hand and ask your child to cut that.  They should be able to master this, and, as we know, success breeds success.  That being said, if you have some kids with super scissor skills in your classrooms, by all means let them rise to the challenge!  That being said, if you have some kids with super scissor skills in your classrooms, by all means, let them rise to the challenge!

In closing about how to improve cutting skills

Before we look at how to improve cutting skills, we need to be clear in our minds if we want to improve them as a functional output skill that our children can use from time to time, or, if we want to use the development of the skill to build in the muscle foundations for pencil grip and pencil control.  Carefully choosing cutting activities that meet our exact goal can go a long way to building hands that are ready to write.

©Bunty McDougall
Occupational Therapist

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