Learning to cut – do the scissors matter?

I have seen many children trying to cut with inappropriate scissors and it DOES affect their ability.

Children should start to be exposed to scissors around 2 years of age. Obviously this should be under adult supervision and not requiring them to cut along a line, they should just enjoy exploring scissors and snipping paper, straws, playdoh etc.

My twins have recently turned 2 and I am starting to allow them to cut. So I went to the shops to find children’s left handed scissors and children’s right handed scissors so they had their own special pair. This run in and run out shop I had planned turned into a 30 min search to find what I wanted.

Then I started thinking about the amount of options there were and how confusing it must be for parents who don’t have a background in teaching children to cut so I thought I would streamline it for anyone who reads this in the hope we can make cutting enjoyable and easy for our little people!

Research has shown that cutting is a skill that helps to improve children’s writing. We should introduce cutting well before a child is ready for writing and by doing so we are easing the process of writing for them!

So here are a few tips on how to choose the best scissors for your child!

  1. There are scissors for Left handers and scissors for Right handers. There are NOT scissors for both! There are a lot of scissors being marketed as “dual purpose” for both left and right handers. These scissors always (well all the ones I have ever seen) have the top blade on the right which means they are for right handers! If you are right handed try cutting with left handed scissors and you will have a whole new appreciation for what left handed people go through when trying to cut with right handed scissors!

If you are buying scissors for a LEFT handed child make sure when you open the scissors the top blade is on the left! This provides the left handed child with the correct perception for where the line is.

  • Plastic “safety” scissors usually end up causing more frustration and inappropriate cutting processes than cutting itself. The scissors your children use need to actually cut paper – never give your child scissors without testing them yourself, otherwise you may be setting them up for failure. The plastic kids scissors I have used require your thumb and fingers to angle together (thumb press into the body and fingers pull out) to make the blades touch. As adults we do this without even thinking – but for children learning to cut you are making the task harder than it needs to be.

Purchase metal curved tipped scissors. These reduce the danger of sharp tipped scissors but still allow the child to succeed.

  • Does your child have difficulty opening the scissors after making a snip? This is quite common (especially in young children) for children with these issues I would recommend spring back scissors that you can purchase from most stores these days. They have a plastic leaver that makes the scissors spring back open after the child snips the paper. These scissors should not be used long term (unless there are other strength and muscle issues present) but they allow your child to learn the processes of cutting without having to concentrate on opening the scissors back up which often effects a child’s fluency.
  • Does your child have difficulty putting their fingers in the holes of the scissors? There are other scissors that look a bit like tweezers (with metal blades on the inside) these are a great tool to use to introduce your child to snipping and cutting. These are spring back as well so make the cutting process a lot easier – but again please don’t use these long term unless there are other issues at play.

Cutting is a complex task that requires a lot of underlying skills such as hand strength, bilateral control, finger isolation, hand eye co-ordination and many more. So if cutting is a task your child finds hard, consider visiting an OT to help determine why.