Saturday, 15 June 2013

Teaching Toddlers to Cut

I took these pictures quite a few weeks back now but felt compelled to write about them today due to the incredible difference in Idris's cutting skills in such a short time. I can remember sitting with Faith for hours at a time whilst she mastered scissors and it was a pleasure to be able to replicate that for Idris! I had noticed that he was becoming more interested in the tools that the girls were using and was naming things like 'sizzies'. I picked up a pack of coloured electrical tape in the pound shop when I was in town ready for him..... and off we went as soon as he said 'sizzies, me'
I love the concentration on his face and his opening and closing mouth as he cuts. He started out using one hand on each scissor handle. I gave him proper craft scissors that were sharp enough to cut well but without pointed ends. Blunt toddler scissors simply frustrate children when they are learning to cut and do them no favours as in struggling to cut with them they could hurt themselves more. I have two pairs of scissors with looped handles that spring back open when released and only need squeezing to cut with, without having to worry about which fingers go in which holes. I have left and right handed pairs as you never know which way a little one is going to go! Faith loved cutting with them but Idris eschewed them in favour of a pair the girls were using! I also have a pair that has a small plastic spring on one handle that when folded down helps the blades to spring open easily again..... they came in useful later on.... for the first stage, just let your child hold and move the scissors how they feel comfortable.
It is useful to hold the paper up for them, at right angles to where they are cutting so that they only have to concentrate on moving the scissor blades, not on manipulating them to get them round the paper. You will sense when is the right time to start letting them do both. You can see from the picture that Idris quickly moved on to attempting to use the scissors with one hand only. It wasn't very successful but I said nothing and let him guide his own progress!I also avoid saying too much about which way up to hold the hand...... words get in the way of a concentrating toddler and they will find their own way! Faith was 16 months when she started cutting, Idris is about 22 months here. The first step with learning to cut is usually 'fringing' around the edge of a piece of paper, making a single cut then opening the scissors and making another cut.
With the electrical tape I held that out tight so that they scissors would cut first time and then Idris either showed me where to stick it or put it down for himself. It is nice to use the coloured tape as they can see where it has gone better than clear tape and allows choice of colour too.... Idris was keen to pull out the tape by himself, another reason why electrical tape is good for toddlers as finding and keeping the end is easy and it doesn't wrap itself up quite so much as clear tape!! It also has the benefit of strengthening fingers and increasing co-ordination and control!
After about an hour cutting and sticking, Idris stopped, looked up, gave a huge sigh then jumped down from the table and took his card with him to show Daddy what he had done with the sizzies.... the picture was ceremoniously pinned to the kitchen door with his big sister's pictures and he was so thrilled, he kept coming back to look at it and say 'me, sizzies'!!!!
Roll on a few weeks and he has asked to use scissors quite often. He likes to carry them with him and although I balked at this to start with I then decided to allow it within the parameters of it being a blunt-ended pair and of him carrying them properly with the blades in his hand and pointing down. He forgets a lot but if I say 'carry your scissors properly please' he immediately turns them round again! He has tried cutting all sorts of things and has developed really good cutting skills, so much so that he now cuts one handed, in straight lines across a piece of paper and at a furious pace! Under the table is littered with pieces of snipped paper several times a day at the moment! 

Today's interest was in cutting boxes, it was fascinating to watch him try different techniques and angles until he found one that worked. The recycling bin is a great source of materials to practise cutting skills on - catalogues, thin cardboard boxes, plastic fruit boxes, wax paper cups..... all provide a new experience! Other things to give your toddler to cut up are play dough, drinking straws, vegetable peelings and leaves and thin twigs from the garden!


  1. Hello, I have just found your blog through a friend and wanted to let you know how delightful and helpful I found it! Wishing you the best of luck with your impending arrival. E

    1. Thank you for your lovely comment - it has really touched me! I'm glad you enjoy the blog! Kind Regards, Jenni