Cutting to Perfection

Updated: Feb 5


What is a proper scissors grasp?

There are several key elements to achieving a correct scissors grasp. First, both hands should be in a thumbs-up position. For a small scissor, the thumb goes in the “top loop” and the middle finger goes in the “bottom loop” and the scissors should rest on the index finger. For a larger scissors the index and middle fingers should be placed in the bottom loop/ The fourth and fifth fingers should be tucked into the palm to  provide stability for the hand as it opens and closes.


10 activities to help children learn how to assume the thumbs-up position Difficulty maintaining a thumbs-up position is an indication of poor elbow control. Here are 10 fun activities to help strengthen elbow control:

1. Dropping and catching: With the elbow bent at a 90° angle palm-down, drop a small object, such as a ball or bean bag into the lower hand, which is cupped palm up. Alternate hands. Gradually increase the weight of the object once the skill has been mastered with a light object.

2. Scoop flour, sugar, beans, rice, etc.

3. Scoop melon with a melon baller

4. Carry a ping pong ball or marble at arm’s length on a long-handled spoon. A first hold the handle close to the bowl of the spoon. Work your way to the end as skill increases.

5. Carry a tray from the bottom to play house or restaurant.  Position hands palms up, upper arms in contact with trunk, and elbows at a 90° angle

6. Board games that require turning  pieces over such as Lucky Ducks, Squiggly Worms and Lotto

7. Slinky: Shift the slinky back and forth between hands, palms up, elbows bent

8. Bounce a ball on a racket (face up or face down)

9. Throw a ball underhand 

10. Play with lock and key toys


How do you begin to teach children to cut with scissors?

Learning to grasp a pair of scissors correctly requires practice and a good pair of scissors. Children’s Fiskars are great starting scissors.

1. First practice snipping strips of card stock and plastic coffee stirrers because they are stiff, easier to cut, and require only one snip. Here's how: save all of those annoying subscription cards that fall out of magazines, and pre-cut them into ½” strips. Have your beginning scissors-user cut them into pieces with one snip.. This is an easy and almost always gratifying activity. If you have an incomplete collection of paying cards, those work equally well. Use the snippets to create a collage.

2. Next, draw thick lines (try a Sharpie) on the edges of a 3x5 or 4x6 index card or card stock. Have your make "fringes" by snipping once on each line.  

3. When the hands are working well together, draw some shorter and longer lines on the card stock with a thick black Sharpie or a highlighter and have your child practice stopping at the end of the line. This will begin to place demands on sequential opening and closing, facilitate awareness of the line, and introduce control. 

4. Finally, provide opportunities to cut longer strips lengthwise on card stock, progressing to widthwise on construction paper to practice opening and closing the scissors 4 or 5 times in a row.


Written by Aviva Goldwasser, OTR/L and Dr. Chaye Lamm Warburg, DPS, OTR/L

#finemotor #scissors #scissorskills #occupationaltherapy

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