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DEVELOPMENT OF SCISSOR SKILLS

CUT IT OUT!
Position
Good positioning of the childs arm and hand are critical for maximizing the childs
cutting skill.

Hold scissors with the thumb above the fingers.


Point scissors away from the body, not parallel to the tummy.
Hold scissors at slight diagonal toward the holding hand.
Keep scissors and work below the shoulders.
Hold scissors and work at least 8 12 inches from the fact.
The assisting hand should do most of the turning and movement.

Preliminary Skills for Tool Use


Motor Skills:
Ability to open and close hand: grasp and release.
Ability to use hands together in a lead-assistor fashion: use scissors and hold paper.
Ability to isolate and combine movements of thumb, index and middle fingers: place
fingers in loops and permit opening and closing of scissors.
Ability to coordinate arm, hand and eye movements: se, coordinate and direct motor
movements toward a goal.
Ability to stabilize the wrist, elbow and shoulder proximal joints: provide a base for
distal mobility with balance, seating, and stability at proximal joints.
Developmental Skills:
Ability to interact with the environment in the constructive developmental play stage:
building, putting together, noticing detail and parts, understanding concepts such as
size, shape and color.
Cognitive skills: organization, motor planning, problem solving, understand concept
of tool use to effect the environment.
Visual Perception: visual attention, visual discrimination, visual sequencing,
directional concepts, proprioception, positioning (scissors to paper).

Skill Acquisition
Level
1

Scissor Use
Interest

Description
child shows and interest in scissors
inappropriate grasps may be observed

Holding

holds scissors with fingers in correct holes

Opening & Closing

controlled opening and closing of scissors

Snipping

Cutting Forward

Cutting a Line

Cutting StraightEdged Shapes

able to stop cutting at a corner


able to realign scissors to cut in another direction

Cutting Rounded
Shapes

rhythmical movements of scissors


manipulation of the paper to cut curved lines

Cutting Complex
Designs

able to follow detail and cut complex form

10

Cutting Other
Materials

closing scissors on paper


places fingers in holes
no rhythmical opening and closing of scissors
pronated forearm and/or neutral forearm

some rhythm apparent


makes continuous cuts across graded lengths of paper
(1 inch to 8 inches)
cutting lines does not have to be straight
follow a line across six inches of paper
line width may be grade from six inches to a pen line
should flexion and elbow extension apparent

able to adapt cutting style to other materials such as


cards, cloth, tissue, etc.

The order of development through Levels 7-9 may vary between children.

Grip
When first exploring and using the scissors, many different grips can be seen. Usually a
child develops a grip with fingers extended to a mature grip. This grip is the ideal way to
hold scissors.
Mature Grip
The child has the ability to isolate the thumb and fingers. The middle finger and
sometimes ring finger are placed in the bottom hole near the middle joint and the thumb
in the top hole. The other fingers are flexed.

Hierarchy of Developmental Scissor Grips

Thumb, one loop: index other,


rest of fingers extended.

Thumb, one loop, index other,


rest of fingers flexed.

Thumb, one loop, index and


middle in other; rest of the
fingers extended.

Thumb, one loop; index and


middle in other, rest of fingers
flexed.

Thumb, one loop; middle other,


rest of fingers flexed; index not

Thumb, one loop; middle


other; index stabilizing.

stabilizing scissors.

Graded Cutting Materials


These suggested cutting materials are listed according to developmental sequence.
Thicker and heavier materials are good for children that are learning because they have
greater stability when manipulating the material allowing the chid to concentrate on
control of the scissors. Once the cutting action has been integrated, less heavy papers can
be used. Once the child has learned to adequately manipulate regular paper while cutting,
light-weight papers and non-paper materials can be introduced.
Heavy to Regular-Weight
Papers
oaktag
index cards
construction paper
brown paper bags
regular paper

Light-Weight
Paper
wax paper
aluminium foil
onionskin paper

Non-Paper
Materials
cloth, fabric
tape
clay
string
straws

NOTE: The childs hand strength must be considered in regards to the weight of the
paper. A lighter weight paper may be selected to begin if the child shows
muscle weakness in the hand.
TYPES OF SCISSORS
Training Scissors
Training scissors may come in different styles, some with double loops and some with
extended double loops. The majority have a two-inch blunt metal blade.
Purpose: to feel the cutting motion and develop muscle coordination while being
directed.
Target Population: no previous cutting experience, coordination difficulties,
learning delays.
Self-Opening Scissors
There is a variety of self-opening or spring scissors. Snippers are generally straight
handled scissors with a spring to open them. Childrens self-opening scissors look like
standard scissors with two small finger loops. Fiskars Scissors for Preschoolers feature
oversized finger loops to permit a squeezing motion with the whole hand and spring open
independently.

Purpose: To eliminate the effort needed to open scissors.


Target Population: extensor and abductor weakness.
Loop Scissors
The grip used on loop scissors is generally a whole hand grip like a fist. Loop scissors
may come with a smooth loop or with groves for the thumb. Holes in the loop provide a
good opportunity to make creative adaptations.
Purpose: to enable cutting using a squeezing motion with thumb and finger or thumb
and palm.
Target Population: coordination difficulties, behaviour difficulties, muscle weakness
(light plastic).
Rolling Scissors
Rolling scissors do not require active movement of the hand, only the wrist, elbow and
shoulder. There are no exposed edges and they will cut most plastics and thick paper.
Purpose: to eliminate squeezing action.
Target Population: fine motor difficulties, muscle weakness, coordination difficulties,
limited hand function.
Push-Down Scissors
These scissors are in the cutting position when placed on the table but are not easily
manipulated to turn or push along the table surface. The non-preferred/assisting hand
must guide the paper through the scissors.
Purpose: to permit cutting using gross motor movements.
Target Population: fine motor difficulties, muscle weakness, coordination difficulties,
limited hand function.
Easy Grip Scissors
These scissors are a self-opening scissor similar to the loop scissors but feature one large
finger loop on the bottom for grip. These are not usually found in smaller, children sizes.
Purpose: to prevent joint and hand discomfort and to minimize effort needed to cut.
Target Population:

fine motor difficulties, muscle weakness, joint and hand pain.

Palmar Grip Scissors


These scissors have a small blade and are good for snipping. The whole hand can grip
the scissors and a loop can be used for the little finger for stability. Only the index and
thumb work in a key/lateral pinch to cut.
Purpose: to increase scissor control and permit cutting using a pinch movement.
Target Population: fine motor difficulties, decrease range of motion in hand.
ADAPTATIONS
Ideas
for children who do not have functional use of the non-preferred hand and cannot
manipulate the paper, there are a variety paper holder ideas: Helping Hands / Twin
Grip Fine Work Clamps (available at Radio Shack), work can be pinned or taped to a
work surface, the arm or fist can stabilize the paper through weight bearing.
Loop scissors can be attached to a surface for one-handed use.
An elastic can be placed around the blades in flexor muscles of the hand are very weak
or the extensor muscles need to be strengthened.