Your preschooler could be using scissors the wrong way and you might not even realize it.
Learning to use scissors is a developmental skill for preschoolers, both physically and cognatively. There’s a lot that has to happen at just the right time and because of that there are a lot of ways a preschooler might be using scissors the wrong way. In this post I share six examples of common mistakes children make when learning how to use scissors.
Correct scissor use
Let’s begin by looking at the correct use of scissors.
This preschoolers is doing everything just right. He is holding the paper in one hand and the scissors in the other. His thumb is through the smaller handle in the scissors, and facing the ceiling, while his pointer and middle fingers are looped through the larger handle, facing the table. His elbows are tucked in by his ribs and the scissors are pointing away from him. He is not only using scissors properly, but also safely.
- scissors pointed away from the body
- elbows tucked in by ribs
- thumb facing up and is through the top or smaller handle
- pointer and middle fingers are threaded through the larger handle
Incorrect scissor use
The following photos are examples of incorrect scissor use.
While the scissors are pointed away from the preschooler’s body, his right hand, holding the paper, is cranked around so that it is in front of the scissor blades, and when he snips at the paper he could also snip his wrist. This is clearly unsafe.
This preschooler has is elbow out and in the air, which causes him to point his scissors at his hand, rather than away from his body. In addition, he is holding the scissors sideways, meaning parallel to the table rather than perpendicular, which makes it more difficult for him to maintain control.
There are a couple of things going on here. The first is that this preschooler does not have his thumb pointed toward the ceiling. Having the thumb pointed to the ceiling almost always ensures that the scissors are also pointing away from the body. Also, if his left hand were holding the string parallel to the table, he would be able to adjust his right hand so that his elbow would be next to his ribs and his thumb up, making it so that the scissors are pointing away from his body. It is clear he snipped the end of his finger because his thumb wasn’t facing up and the scissors not pointing away from his body. (Don’t worry, he didn’t get hurt…this time…but he might next time!)
To the student’s credit, it is very difficult to cut string, (one of my preschoolers refused to even try), but cutting is not only interesting to preschoolers but requires a tremendous amount of focus. Because of the focus and attention required, I find it very effective in teaching correct scissor handling.As you can see, this student is making the exact same mistakes as the above student and the result is snipping toward the body instead of away from the body. With the thumb completely facing the table, rather than the ceiling, there is virtually no way for the child to use the scissors safely and effectively.
It is really, really important that children do not use scissors this way as it is dangerous. When my daughter was only two and really starting to learning how to use scissors, she was cutting toward her body and ended up snipping a hole in her new shirt and leaving a sore, red mark on her arm.It seems like every child tries this method at least once while he is learning how to cut. This preschooler is using scissors like a pair a hedge shears. While it may seem harmless in the photo, it can scratch the table, but more importantly is is not teaching him to use the scissors effectively with only one hand. (However this can be an effective way to teach the “open, close” concept to the earliest scissor beginner, but I recommend cutting something like play dough).
And here another preschooler, (my daughter) has also given the shearing method a try. The problem now is that the first student really has is arms cranked around so that his elbow is really in the air, and this time he did scratch my table as the scissors snipped away at the string, which they didn’t actually cut, by the way. Again, this method is not effective in teaching children to learn how to use scissors with only one hand, and it certainly does not teach them how to hold the paper (or string) in the opposite hand while cutting. Not only do preschoolers have to learn the basics of using scissors, they also have to become coordinated enough to do something completely different with the other hand, which is often times moving as well.
Safety is the number one factor in teaching a child how to correctly use scissors. The guidelines I give at the beginning of the post are there not only to teach effective scissor cutting, but also because they make for safe scissor cutting.
I’m Sarah, an educator turned stay-at-home-mama of five! I’m the owner and creator of Stay At Home Educator, a website about intentional teaching and purposeful learning in the early childhood years. I’ve taught a range of levels, from preschool to college and a little bit of everything in between. Right now my focus is teaching my children and running a preschool from my home. Credentials include: Bachelors in Art, Masters in Curriculum and Instruction.