The OT Toolbox
Cutting with scissors is fun for many children. When a child starts to show an interest in learning to cut with scissors, it is possible that they have already started the developmental progression of skills needed for scissor use.  The steps of scissor skills development typically happens through play.  So how do you know how a child learns to cut with scissors?  And you may be wondering just how to teach a child scissor skills.  In this post, I'm sharing the progression of development that allows a child to  understand what scissors are to allowing them to use scissors accurately in order to cut complicated shapes.

How do scissor skills develop

They might see older siblings or a parent using scissors on a regular basis and be familiar with how the scissors fits on their hand (although they may position them incorrectly at first).  Or they might only know that that shiny tool can cut paper into two!  

There are many skills needed for cutting with scissors:

Bilateral coordination
Hand strength
Separation of the two sides of the hand
Eye-hand coordination
Opening/Closing of the thumb web space
Precision of grasp and release

Because these skills develop both individually and in coordination with one another, and because the progression of scissor skill accuracy greatly depends on practice, I am not going to include typical age-ranges in this particular scissor skill post.  

What you will see below is the general progression of scissor use.  This development is important because we can see where accuracy and skill may breakdown with scissor use, safety, positioning, and accuracy when the underlying developmental stages are skipped or not successful.

Another huge impact relating to successful scissor use is practice time.  Kids that head into kindergarten without ever having held or used a pair of scissors will struggle more greatly with the cut and paste learning activities that happen in the typical kindergarten classroom.

So, when it comes to helping kids learn to successfully use scissors, the greatest tip may be more practice!  

Here is one way to practice: Use recycled paper to practice scissor skills with this scissor skills crash course.

Of course, when there are underlying areas that hinder successful scissor use such as fine motor control, visual motor integration, cognitive impairments, or other areas, then adaptations and accommodations to scissor tasks should be made. 

But how can we know if kids are on the right track when cutting with scissors? The steps of development below are one way to put together the big pieces of the scissor use puzzle!
Steps of scissor skill development, this is perfect for anyone who wonders how do scissor skills develop in kids

The Steps of Scissor Skills Development

Child tears paper in play

Child shows an interest in scissors

Child understands that scissors are used to cut paper

Child is able to hold scissors (incorrect hand placement)

Child is able to maintain a correct grip on scissors when positioned by an adult

Child is able to hold scissors in a correct grip without assistance

Child begins to open and close scissors

Child is able to open and close scissors using a controlled action (precision of grip begins to develop)

Child is able to hold paper and make small and random snips

Child is able to make consecutive cuts with a forward motion of the scissors, tearing the paper

Child is able to make consecutive cuts with a forward motion of the scissors, without tearing the paper

Child is able to cut straight lines forward across a page, while moving the helper hand forward (moving the paper with the scissors as in raising the shoulders/extending the elbows)

Child is able to cut straight lines forward without experiencing forward movement of the helper hand

Child is able to cut simple curves and angled lines (one direction change) without moving the assisting hand on the paper to re-position

Child is able to cut simple curves and angled lines (one direction change) while moving the assisting hand on the paper to re-position

Child is able to cut out simple lines with more than one direction change

Child is able to cut circles

Child is able to cut complicated shapes with straight and curved lines

For MORE information on scissor skills, you will want to check out The Scissor Skills Book, an e-book by myself and other pediatric Occupational Therapists and Physical Therapists.  It contains everything you need to know about scissor skill development, practice, modifications, underlying challenge areas, and more! Check out The Scissor Skills Book.

Steps of scissor skill development, this is perfect for anyone who wonders how do scissor skills develop in kids

More scissor skills development activities for kids:

 Simple trick for teaching kids to hold the paper when cutting with scissors Teach kids to slow down and cut on the lines scissor skills for kids Ultimate guide to scissor skills

Handwriting is a challenge when spacing is inaccurate.  Poorly spaced letters and words as a result of visual spatial difficulties can lead to illegible handwriting.  Using a spacing tool can be a HUGE help for some kids!  This handwriting spacing tool pointer stick is a physical prompt and a visual cue that helps kids in handwriting and become independent with when writing.  

There is a lot going on when a child is required to write.  The visual motor skills needed to accurately copy or write written work requires the processing of visual perceptual skills along with coordination and manipulation of the pencil along lines and margins.  

These are a lot of different areas that can break down and result in sloppy or illegible handwriting!

Try this handwriting spacing tool pointer stick to help kids with spatial awareness when writing.

Use a spacing tool pointer stick to help with placing spaces between letters and words, assuring words, phrases, or sentences are not omitted, and when aligning columns of words, as in lists.  

Handwriting Spacing Tool Pointer Stick

Affiliate links are included in this post. 

Try using this spacing pointer stick to keep margins aligned too.

Looking for other ways to address spacing in margin use?  Here are a bunch of ideas for spatial awareness with margins

Kids can use this handwriting spacing tool pointer stick to help with spatial awareness when writing.

You will need just two materials to make a spacing pointer stick:

A marker (a scented, Mr. Sketch marker is fun!) 

Use the marker to make a brightly colored dot on one end of the craft stick.  You could also use a small sticker, but I wanted to ensure a bright contrast between the colored craft stick and the colored dot.

Try this handwriting spacing tool pointer stick to help kids with spatial awareness when writing.

And that's it!  Show the child how to use it to keep their place when copying written work, when aligning margins, and when spacing between words.  

Use the spacing tool pointer stick to help kids with spatial awareness in these ways:
  • Point to words when copying from a text or sheet on a desk.  The pointer stick can help keep the child's place, visually.
  • Align columns in math and lists of words.
  • Align left and right margins on the page.  Keep the margin from drifting in toward the middle of the page.
  • Space between letters and words when writing.

Use this handwriting spacing tool pointer stick to align columns of words or math problems when writing, perfect for kids who struggle with spatial awareness.

Some spacing tools can be themed!  Go beyond the simple dot or sticker and make a space martian themed spacing tool.

Another great way to add hands-on play to spatial awareness is an activity like these spacing puzzles.

Use this handwriting spacing tool pointer stick to help kids with spatial awareness when writing.

Need more handwriting strategies?  Check out the drop-down tab at the top of the site, and grab your free handwriting strategy printables.  They are part of a small email series on handwriting.  You'll get a series of emails on handwriting, with a free printable page each day.

 Handwriting email series

Some of our favorite ways to work on gross motor skills are with a simple balance beam.  With the start of warmer weather, the kids are constantly active and outdoors.  But sometimes, it's impossible to get outside when the weather is rainy.  Other times, kids need a break from very hot temperatures.  It's a great idea to work those core muscles as well as balance with sensory vestibular input through play with balance beam play weather the kids are playing indoors or out. These ideas would work for rainy indoor days, too!

Kids love balance beams!  There is a good reason to promote them, too. Balance, core strength, and bilateral coordination are all addressed with just a simple balance beam.  You can find out more about these areas in our How Balance Beams Help Kids

If you are looking for more information on how core strength helps with attention in kids, read this Core Strength and Attention activity that we did previously.

This Brain Gym Bilateral Coordination activity is a great way to get both sides of the body moving in a coordinated manner through play. 

Indoor balance beam ideas for a rainy day

Indoor Balance Beam Ideas for a Rainy Day

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Cut paper into shapes.  Kids can cut out these shapes and tape them to the floor to create an indoor balance beam on a rainy day.  Some of these ideas would work:
Shamrocks Balance Beam
Paper snowflakes
Paper hearts
Paper suns
Paper flowers

More indoor balance beam ideas for a rainy day activity:

Foam cutouts like these flowers.

Stick painters' tape to the floor in a balance beam, using zig zag lines.

Gonge Riverstones are a great challenge to the vestibular system with various sloped sides. 

Paper plates-Tape them down so they don't slide, or use them on a carpet for a sliding balance beam challenge!

The BSN Gymnastics Curve-A-Beam can be reconfigured in many patterns and directions.

Roll up a blanket or sheet as a balance beam like this Gross Motor Apple Tree Balance Beam.

This Folding Beam is great for storage concerns. Add creative balance beam activities like transferring items from a bucket at one end to a bucket at the other end.

Balance Pods can be positioned in any room or activity. Encourage big and little steps by spacing them closely and further apart.

Stepping Buckets Balance challenge motor planning. Place obstacles in between the buckets for more visual tracking while working on vestibular sensory integration.

Rainy day ideas including indoor balance beams for kids

Looking for more ways to move and play indoors?  Try these ideas:

Indoor Tee Pee

3 Ingredient Kinetic Sand

Many people have an Echo dot or an Amazon Echo device that has Alexa. The voice-controlled devices have a small built-in speakers and connects to the Alexa Voice Service to play music, provide information, news, sports scores, weather, and more.  I discovered a few Alexa skills that are perfect for helping kids with therapy needs or with development of underlying skills that impact independence and safety.  Use these as an occupational therapy tool! These Alexa skills are free to set up and use on your Echo Dot or Amazon Echo device. 

Use these Alexa skills on your Echo dot or Amazon echo device to help kids develop the skills in therapy that they need for focus, attention, independence.

Alexa skills to help with therapy needs

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There is so much that can be done with the Amazon Echo and other devices that connect to Alexa voice service!  Click here to find out more about all that these devices can do.  

They can be used in any room of your house using Bluetooth. 

Alexa devices like the Echo Dot, Amazon Echo, and Bluetooth-enabled speakers are excellent tools for addressing the developmental needs of kids.  You can use free Alexa skills to address needs such as safety, sensory processing, and executive functioning skills right at home.  

 As Buddy Alexa skill

Ask My Buddy is a free Alexa skill that  lets you immediately alert someone in your Personal Alert Network that you need them to check on you. All you need to do is say, 'Alexa, Ask My Buddy to alert YourContact' or 'Alexa, Ask My Buddy to alert everyone', and Ask My Buddy will immediately send an alert, notifying them to check on you right away. Alerts will be sent by text message / SMS, an email, and even a voice telephone call. Ask My Buddy is not a substitute for 911, but rather an additional tool offering the security of knowing help is just a shout away.  This is perfect for older folks who live alone or young teens that are just starting to stay at home on their own.
Click here for directions to set up this Alexa skill.

 Sensory Sounds Alexa skill

ASMR Sounds is a free Alexa skill that provides auditory sensory input to calm and relax you.  ASMR stands  for autonomous sensory meridian response.  This app provides soothing sounds that relax your mind and body.  It would be a great sensory break or perfect to use before bedtime.
Click here to set up this Alexa skill.

 Listening comprehension Alexa app

Listening Comprehension Practice is an Alexa skill that is perfect for kids or adults who are working on auditory processing skills.  The free app allows listeners to sharpen their comprehension of audio narrative content by providing a short audio narrative followed by interactive comprehension questions. The listener must respond to the questions and Alexa will verify if the response is correct.
Click here to set up this Alexa skill.

 Goal tracker for Alexa

Goal Tracker by Hoogalit is a free Alexa skill that tracks goals.  From chores, to doing homework at a specific time, to completing parts of a sensory diet-this goal tracker will keep kids on target.  It looks like the skill works best with simple goals, but it's an option to try for kids with executive functioning problems.
Click here to set up this Alexa skill.

 Note taker Alexa skill

My Note-taking Skill is a free Alexa skill that creates notes in note-taking services, such as Evernote and OneNote.  This is a nice tool for kids with handwriting difficulties including dysgraphia.  Use it to add items to your to-do list as soon as you think of them.
Click here to set up this Alexa skill.

 Meditation Timer

Meditation Timer provides timed soundscapes that evoke feelings of calm and relaxation. Sounds such as a peaceful forest, ocean waves, or falling rain are a calming auditory sensory tool to help kids relax.  
Click here to set up this Alexa skill.

Alexa skills for therapy

This weighted fidget toy is a calming tool that can be used in the classroom or at home when kids need to calm down and focus to desk work.  I love the fine motor benefits that kids get when making this calming fidget toy too.  You'll use just a few materials to make this calming tool for boosting attention.  The whole class or a group of kids can make them and use them to concentrate and focus in the classroom.

Weighted fidget toy for helping kids pay attention and focus in the classroom

Weighted Fidget Toy

Use these materials to make a calming weighted fidget toy for helping kids attend and focus, with a calming weight.  This is a great tool to use for kids who fidget during homework.

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You'll need these materials to make a weighted fidget tool:

One knit, stretchy glove
Dry beans (or corn, rice, split peas, etc.)
String and needle

Use dry beans to make a weighted fidget toy for kids to help them pay attention and focus.

To make the weighted fidget toy, provide the kids with one cup of dry beans (or other material) and a single glove.  This time of year, you can often times, find gloves on clearance.  These are available in dollar stores as well.

Use dry beans to make a weighted fidget toy that helps with attention and focus in school or at home

Show the children how to use a spoon to fill the glove with beans.  Scooping the beans into the glove is a great motor planning activity that encourages motor control, visual motor skills, and bilateral coordination.

Use a knit glove to make a weighted and calming fidget toy for kids

Then, sew up the opening of the glove.  This can be a job of an adult or teen.

And with that, your weighted fidget toy is complete.

Use this tool on a knee under a desk to provide some heavy weight input through the calf.  Kids can place it on one knee and then the next.  Adding the weighted input through the knee provides proprioceptive input that is calming for some children.

To use the weighted glove as a fidget toy, work the beans up and down the fingers of the glove.  This is a calming and mesmerizing motor skill that is calming for some kids.

Use a knit glove to make a weighted and calming fidget toy for kids

Combining the weighted input along with the fidget activity can be a powerful source of attention for children.

Fidget toys are an excellent way to boost so many important skills during school or at home.  Try this pencil topper fidget toy for use when writing.  It might be nice to combine with the weighted fidget toy.

Use this weighted fidget toy with a glove to help kids attend and focus

Give this fidget toy a try!  Let me know how it works for you!

Looking for more easy fidget toys?  These keychain fidgets are perfect for kids in school or on-the-go!

More fidget toys that look awesome for school or at home:
Recently, we've shared a lot of information related to impulse control.  This executive functioning skill is essential for most daily tasks!  When kids struggle with prioritization, planning, time management, persistence, then impulse control can suffer.  Likewise, difficulties with sensory processing, modulation, or direction following can limit a child's ability to utilize self-control in order to inhibit their impulses.  

These easy ways to improve impulse control are quick tips and tricks that can help kids address impulsivity. 
tips to help kids with impulse control

Easy Ways to Improve Impulse Control

▪ Use those real life situations to assess what worked, what didn't work, and talk about it! Sometimes looking at a big picture can help kids.

▪ Research tells us that as the day progresses, it is harder for us to maintain and utilize self-control. Make smaller goals later in the day.

▪ Encouraging statements can boost and rally! Use imagery to picture successes in typical situations. Find an encouraging statement that really speaks to the child and ask them to repeat it, sing it, and dance to it! Get silly to make it stick in their minds.

▪ Rest, a healthy diet, enough sleep, physical exercise, and time of day all make a difference in willpower. The interoceptive system is a powerful sensory system when it comes to impulse control.

▪ Physical exercise also leads to changes in the function and s
tructure of the pre-frontal cortex of the brain. Regular exercise such as mindful exercises like yoga and stretching as well as intense cardiovascular exercise helps us become more resilient to stress.

▪ Teach kids how to manage stress. When we experience stress, it means that our body’s energy is used up and we act instinctively. Decisions made under stress are often times based on short-term outcomes.

▪ Self-control and reining in those impulses requires monitoring. This includes keeping track of your thoughts, feelings and actions in any given situation. Help kids monitor their actions with quick self-checks.

▪ Write down the rules. A prerequisite to impulse control includes a knowledge of standards. These personal and assumed guidelines steer us in the "right direction" of following rules. This might include classroom rules, society's rules, rules of communication, personal standards, and moral guidelines. For the child with sensory processing challenges, communication difficulties, executive functioning issues, these standards can be very difficult to perceive and know! It can be very stressful for these children to know there are rules, but they don't know exactly what they are.

These strategies are easy to address but can sometimes not carryover well into typical daily tasks.  
That's why I created The Impulse Control Journal.

The Impulse control journal is a printable journal for kids that helps them to identify goals, assess successes, and address areas of needs.  The Impulse Control Journal is a printable packet of sheets that help kids with impulse control needs.

Read more about The Impulse Control Journal HERE

There is a $2.00 discount on The Impulse Control Journal, available April 10-17th.  Grab it with the discount now!

Impulse control journal for kids

Impulse control journal for kids with impulsivity problems

The impulse control journal is perfect for kids who: 
  • Grab items from other kids 
  • Lack a sense of personal boundaries 
  • Show poor self-regulation of emotions and sensory input 
  • Have difficulties with delayed gratification 
  • Struggle with carryover of impulsivity strategies into general situations 
  • Interrupt others or act out in the classroom

Impulse control journal ideas for kids\

Working on Handwriting?