How to Hold Scissors. Scissor Cutting for Pre-Schoolers

We pay a huge amount of attention to pencil grip and how to teach our children to hold the pencil correctly.  But when it comes to cutting, we tend not to give as much attention to how to hold scissors.  There is a correct way!  Focusing on the correct scissor grasp at the get-go can go a long way to laying the correct foundations for developing the correct pencil grip.  Correct scissor grasp matters because of the muscle development it offers to the muscles which are going to hold the pencil.  We also explore scissor cutting for pre-schoolers and beyond, so their scissors do not end up preventing them from benefiting from all scissor cutting has to offer.

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What cutting offers pre-writing development

Cutting mimics the tripod pencil grasp in that the thumb, index and middle fingers (the-three-friends move) are the movers, while the 4th and 5th fingers provide a point of stability from which the-three-friends move.  But this only works if you select your style of scissors correctly.  You want the best toddler scissors which will lay the foundations for scissor cutting for pre-schoolers.

Choosing the correct scissors for scissor cutting for pre-schoolers

Before we looking at how to hold the scissors, we need to select a pair of scissors.  Not any scissors. The best scissors!  When looking at how to hold the scissors, the style of the loops of the scissors are of critical importance.  The top loop isn’t something I worry too much about.  The thumb goes in the top loop and it is pretty standard.  But it is what happens in the bottom loops is where things start to go wrong.

Occupational therapists use cutting activities develop the moving and stabilising sides of the hand.  The stabilising side is comprised of the 4th and 5th fingers bent loosely into the palm of the hand.  If you chose pair of scissors has a long loop at the bottom, you are going to find your child is going to place all their fingers in the loop.  If they are in the loop, they are going to assist with the opening and closing of the scissors.  This would mean they are performing a moving, and not a stabilising function.  If cutting was just about getting something cut out, that would be fine.  But for those of us working on developing fine motor skills for handwriting, we would be passing up the opportunity of developing the very movements we need for handwriting, and that would seem foolish.

Fiskars have a selection guide for scissors but do take a look at the large lower loop...  Think twice about what you are wanting from your cutting activities.  Just saying.

We need scissors with equally sized small loops at both the top and the bottom of the scissors.  With the greatest of respect to the companies who do make the most amazing scissors, they shouldn’t have a large loop at the bottom!  They should have consulted their friendly occupational therapist before they started a trend that is preventing our children from gaining the optimal hand and muscle development from cutting.

What is the correct way to hold scissors

Beginner cutters can hold the thumb in the top loop, with their index and middle fingers in the bottom.  Maturing cutters from Grade R and beyond, should be holding with the mature grasp.  The mature grasp places the middle finger in the lower loop and the index finger out in front to provide stability and directional control over the scissors.

How to hold scissors: the grasp you don’t want

We don’t want the thumb in the upper loop and the index in the lower.  This is an immature grasp.  This means the middle wouldn’t be an active mover which is what we want if we are developing the muscles and movements for pencil grip and pencil control.  Try and avoid this grasp.  It is such a tiny modification to make, yet it makes such a significant difference to developing the moving and stabilising sides of the hand.

Parents has a lovely article on teaching preschoolers to use scissors.

In closing about how to hold scissors correctly

There is a correct way to hold scissors!  It will certainly be easier for your child to hold the correct way if you have the correct scissors.  Those with a large lower loop are not going to set your child up to benefit optimally from what cutting has to offer.  Chose well and scissor cutting for pre-schoolers will get off to the best start.

©Bunty McDougall
Occupational Therapist

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