Knives. Scissors… the very thought of our little ones using these, often fills parents with fear! Yet using knives and scissors safely, is an essential life skill. So when do we teach them? It all depends upon your own child and when they’re ready, but around the age of two is a good guide. However, teaching your child to use scissors doesn’t just stop when they can cut something. Find out what you can do to help your child use them safely and effectively…
As a teacher, I find that even many of the 8 and 9 year olds I teach each year, find using scissors accurately, quite challenging. A very common complaint amongst reception (otherwise known as kindergarten,) teachers is that children often lack the co-ordination, fine-motor skills and finger strength to be able to use scissors. So I have set up a ‘pre-cutting skills’ table for ‘Darth’ and will share this, along with the next few stages of knife and scissor skills through my ‘scissor skills series.’ The table has a mirror positioned behind it, and is just next to our set of glass doors to allow natural light in. This is in-keeping with the Reggio philosophy of light and space, along with reflections to help the child see their own actions from another perspective (for example, they might notice that the way they’re holding a knife doesn’t look quite right, when looking in a mirror, but when holding it, it can seem ‘normal.’) To see what’s on the table, keep reading…
Using a Knife
Before using scissors, comes using a knife. The Melissa and Doug wooden fruit chopping set is an excellent way to safely teach your child knife skills, before providing them with the real thing. Teach your child to hold the red handle and hold the knife the right way around. Even though it’s pretend, as they learn to hold the handle and ‘cut’ using the wooden ‘blade,’ teach them not to touch any part of the blade.
Next comes a play dough ‘sausage’ and a plastic children’s knife. This teaches more meaningful skills (I.e there isn’t a neat little pre-cut in food, like in the play food. These can be offered together, to teach both skills side by side and enable your little one to transfer their skills from one activity, to the other.
Preparing for Scissors – Strengthening Activities
Remember these finger puppets from our travelling with toddlers post? Finger puppets are a fantastic way to strengthen those fingers (as well as developing other important skills like language and social skills.) So a few finger puppets were added to the pre-cutting skills table and ‘Darth’ loved it!
Tearing Paper is another great way of getting your child to strengthen and co-ordinate their fingers. Tissue paper works well for this (and avoids those nasty paper cuts!) Combine it with a purposeful activity, such as ripping and sticking tissue paper to make a tree collage.
Preparing for Scissors – Developing Co-ordination and Fine-Motor Skills
Using these jumbo tweezers helps ‘Darth’ to use that squeezing and releasing motion that he will need, when he moves onto the next stage of preparing for scissors. This area of the table encourages him to pick up the pom poms (of differing size, to make it harder,) and also pick up and transfer the lolly sticks. Developing children’s fine-motor skills is an important skill anyway, but it is essential to be able to use scissors later on.
‘Darth’ also decided to use a lollipop stick to cut his wooden strawberry! Whilst developing his fine-motor skills, he was also talking about the colours of some of the items and trying to say ‘strawberry’ (which came out as ‘staw-bey’)
What’s on this Table?
Tissue paper for tearing
Melissa & Doug Cutting Fruit
Learning Resources Jumbo Tweezers
100pk Fluffy Pom-Poms
Jumbo lolly or lollipop sticks Pack of 100 – mixed colours
LEGO 6176 DUPLO Basic Bricks
Stacking rainbow (the one shown is from Sainsburys, but take a look at this similar one we also have):
Grimm’s Toys Rainbow stacking toy-large
Old MacDonald Farm Animals Finger Puppets
Creation Station Dough Tools
Ikea plastic knife