Child cutting with scissors behind title: Scissors and Preschoolers - Scissors Basics

 

When should children learn to use scissors? At what age are they too young? How should I teach my preschooler to use scissors?

If you’ve asked any of these questions, then you’re in the right place. As a preschool teacher who has worked closely with children, 2-5 years old, for over 9 years, I’ve learned a thing or two when it comes to teaching young children how to use scissors. In this blog post, I’m going to share what I’ve learned with you.

Why teach preschoolers how to use scissors?

If you’ve been around early learning and child care settings, you will likely have heard the term “fine motor muscles.” Fine motor muscles are the small muscles in the hands, especially those needed to hold a pencil. A child with strong fine motor muscles has a distinct advantage when it comes to learning to hold a pencil properly for writing. Therefore, we want to provide many opportunities for children to exercise their fine motor muscles. One excellent way to do so is by using scissors.

Added to that, a child who goes into Kindergarten feeling comfortable and moderately capable with scissors will have an advantage during various crafts and activities that require the use of scissors.

Which scissors to start with?

There are three basic types of scissors for preschoolers.Crayola Safety Scissors

  1. Entirely plastic safety scissors – These are the type of scissors that can cut playdough, but not much else. Most of them do not work well on paper. Crayola makes my favourite type of these scissors. They come in a set of three. I have no problem leaving these scissors freely at the playdough table for children even as young as 2 years olds. I have seen these available at various stores that also sell Crayola markers and crayons.
  2. Metal safety scissors – These scissors look like regular adult scissors except that they are smaller and have a rounded point rather than a sharp tip. These sorts of safety scissors are widely available in stores. Note that they are sharp enough to cut various materials and, therefore, require adult supervision.Maped Spring Safety Scissors
  3. Spring safety scissors – These scissors look identical to typical metal safety scissors, except for the addition of a spring. Children with weak fine motor muscles are typically able to close the scissors, but may find it difficult to reopen the scissors without using their second hand to help. Preschools often have a pair or two of these spring scissors. If you are only teaching one or two children how to use scissors, buying these special spring scissors typically is not needed. If your child struggles to open the scissors at first, don’t be worried. Simply keep practicing with the scissors and providing other fine motor exercises to strengthen their muscles.

Going forward in this article, I will be referring to the second (and/or third) type of scissors, but not the first entirely plastic ones.

When to teach preschoolers how to use scissors?

If you asked me to pinpoint an age when most children are ready to begin using scissors, I would say 2.5 years old. However, I say that cautiously. Having worked with countless children, I have noticed that some children are very impulsive and unaware of what they are doing with their hands. These children may not be ready to begin using scissors until they have matured more as scissors can be dangerous when not handled well.

Also, only bring out the scissors during calmer parts of the day. If you have multiple children around, you do not want the others running nearby while scissors are being used.

How to teach preschoolers to use scissors?

Before I tell you how to teach your preschooler to use scissors, a word of caution. Scissors are dangerous. Children, and those instructing them, must treat scissors with a degree of respect.

  • ModelYoung girl using scissors
    • If your child has never watched someone use scissors before, take a moment to grab a piece of paper and a pair of scissors and show them how to cut.
  • Thumbs up
    • Although this may feel awkward for your child at first, the proper posture when using scissors is to have thumbs up. By that, I mean that the hand holding the scissors has the thumb on the top and the fingers on the bottom when cutting. Similarly, the hand holding the paper, which I like to call the “helper hand”, should have the thumb on top of the paper and the fingers underneath. For many children, this takes practice and several gentle reminders.
  • Supervise
    • Again, scissors are dangerous – to you, your child, and to the environment around them. Be intentional to tell your child that scissors are only for paper. A child left unsupervised with scissors is prone to cutting something that shouldn’t be cut, whether the tablecloth, their clothing, the nearest ribbon, etc. This is also the age for self-haircuts. Nearly every year one of my children shows up one day with a very short haircut accompanied by their parent’s explanation that the child gave themselves a haircut. Therefore, I repeat, keep an eye on your child when they are using scissors.

Techniques for teaching children to use scissors

1. Hand-over-hand – this technique I recommend for the first few times your child uses scissors, especially if they are younger than 4 years old. For some children, only one time of hand-over-hand is needed. For other children, I would use hand-over-hand for several months before trusting them to use scissors on their own.

    • The hand-over-hand technique is exactly what it sounds like. I put my right hand over the child’s right hand and my left hand over their left hand. I find this works best if I sit on a low seat and have the child stand in front of me. In this way, I am more or less providing training wheels for the child as they learn to use scissors. While using the hand-over-hand technique, I help the children make crafts.

2. Free cutting – Some children are able to skip the hand-over-hand technique and move right to this one. Some teachers start all their children with this technique.

    • Collect a pile of papers, flyers you are planning to recycle work well. Have the child sit at a table. Give them a pair of scissors and several pieces of paper. Allow them to freely cut the paper however they wish. Many children will end up cutting the paper into itsy bitsy bits. That’s just fine. The goal of this technique is to give the children space to build the fine motor muscles needed to use scissors and to become comfortable using scissors on their own.

3. Following a line – Some children will be more engaged with their scissors if they are making something. There are various ways to give them an opportunity to do this, even when they are just starting out with scissors. I will list a few below.

Ways to incorporate scissor practice into a craft

  1. Choose a colouring sheet that matches your theme, draw a line around the image on the colouring sheet. Be sure the line is distinct from the lines of the image, perhaps by being a different colour. Have the child cut along the line. Then allow the child to colour, paint, or otherwise decorate the picture.
  2. If your craft includes several parts that you would typically cut beforehand and then give to the child to glue together, consider allowing your child to cut out one of the bigger pieces. For beginner cutters, it should be no smaller than a quarter of a sheet of paper. Once they have cut it out, have them proceed with the craft as usual.
  3. Let the child cut something to glue on. For example, if you’re talking about food, you could give your child a grocery store flyer and encourage them to cut out various food items and glue them on a piece of paper. Alternatively, let them cut a piece of paper into itsy bitsy bits and then glue the paper onto a picture to make a flower, etc.

Tips

  • Round lines are harder than straight lines
  • If your child gets distracted while holding scissors, gently remind them to look at their scissors when they are cutting.
  • Teach children that their helper hand is the one that should be turning the paper to follow the line. Their scissor hand should stay mostly straight in front of them rather than turning with the line.
  • Slightly thicker paper is often easier for children at first.
  • Teach the child, perhaps by modelling it, that when they are following a line and go off track, they need to stop and cut towards the line to get back on track.

What are some of your favourite scissor activities for your child?

Child colouring behind title "3 Go-To Places for Preschool Resources"

Free Printables – 

With all of the Covid-19 restrictions, you may be finding yourself in need of new, easy activities for your youngster. Here are three sites with free printable resources that I recommend.

(Note: None of the links below are affiliate links. I am recommending these websites because I have found them to be valuable resources in the past. I have no control over these websites, nor am I connected to them in any way.)

1.  SuperColoring.com

While there are many free colouring page websites out there, my go-to is Super Coloring. I especially enjoy their realistic animal colouring sheets. Sometimes I print their pictures for my preschool class to colour. At other times, I use the pictures to make visuals for circle time. They have just about everything from dinosaurs to flowers and from insects to world maps. If you’re looking for something more academically based, they even have colouring sheets for letters A-Z.

supercoloring.com

2. Teaching2And3YearOlds.com

Teaching 2 And 3 Year Olds is a website full of free resources, including free printable activities or other creative play ideas. Many of the posts include tips and mention the developmental benefits of each activity. Activities on this site are often sorted by theme.

teaching2and3yearolds.com

3. TheBeginnersBible.com

Have you read the Beginner’s Bible with your children? Did you know that there are free printable colouring sheets and activity sheets that go with it? With the same illustrations and pictures as found in the picture Bible, your youngsters might enjoy this extension to their learning.

thebeginnersbible.com

Looking for more? Check out some of the ideas I’ve collected on Pinterest:

S. J. Little’s Preschool Posts: www.pinterest.ca/sjlittleauthor/s-j-littles-preschool-posts

Ideas to Try: www.pinterest.ca/sjlittleauthor/ideas-to-try

Keeping Toddler Busy: www.pinterest.ca/sjlittleauthor/keeping-toddler-busy

Make Your Own Toys: www.pinterest.ca/sjlittleauthor/make-your-own-toys

Free Preschool Teacher Tools: www.pinterest.ca/sjlittleauthor/free-preschool-teacher-tools

 

What are your go-to websites for free printable preschool/toddler activities?

Mother hugging daughter with title "5 Things to Teach When Homeschooling Your Preschooler"

 

With the current pandemic, you may find yourself homeschooling your preschooler, whether by choice or due to circumstances beyond your control. In order to help you out, I’ve collected a list of 5 things most preschool teachers include every day at circle time.

Circle time is the part of the preschool schedule when all the children gather around, typically sitting on a carpet, while the teacher teaches. Sometimes activities are interactive, while at other times they require listening to the teacher talk. At home, you could schedule a regular sit down circle time with your child. Alternatively, many of these topics can be integrated into other moments of your day. 

Note that circle time doesn’t have to be long. For younger or more wiggly children, you could start at 5 minutes a day and slowly, over several weeks, build the length up to 10-15 minutes depending on the attention span and interest level of the child.

1. Stories

Storytime is an important part of the day for many areas of child development. Your child will learn pre-reading skills, gain knowledge about many topics, and be exposed to new words. In preschool settings, storytime is often a part of circle time, but in a home setting, you could easily have a reading time that is separate from other circle time activities.

There is so much more I could say about storytime, but that is another topic for another time.

Wondering which books I recommend? Check out my post: 7 Fantastic Animal Guessing Books as well as my Pinterest boards:  S. J. Little’s Favourite Preschool/Toddler Books & Books for Toddlers and Preschoolers 

2. Songs

Scientists have discovered that music is hugely beneficial for brain development. Not only that, but most children enjoy singing. Therefore, nearly all preschools include singing as a daily activity. Some teachers only sing one or two songs a day, others have songs for nearly everything, from clean-up songs to “What’s the Weather” songs and everything in between. Thankfully, being an excellent singer is not required for singing with preschoolers.

From a practical teaching perspective, songs can be useful for:

  • Transitions (example: clean-up songs)
  • Teaching (example: ABC songs)
  • Memorization (example: days of the week songs)
  • Enjoyment (example: The Wheels on the Bus)
  • Exercise (example: If You’re Happy and You Know It)

Chances are you already sing some songs with your child. If you’re looking for more songs to learn, check out some of my favourites:

3. Letter of the week

To help keep the alphabet from seeming so big and overwhelming, a common strategy for teaching 3-4 year old children is to focus on one letter per week. This typically happens at circle time. There are endless strategies on how to teach each letter. You can use posters or songs or mystery boxes. If your child seems to be losing interest, try switching things up with a new technique. Here is a list of 9 strategies I’ve used: Teaching the ABCs at Circle Time 

4. Calendar

Did you know that most preschools review the calendar with the children every day? By that, I mean the children will sing a song about the names of the seven days of the week and discuss which day of the week today is. Then, as a class, they will count the number of days to find out which day it is. They also discuss the name of whichever month it is.

Here’s an example of teaching and singing about the days of the week: 

Understanding the calendar can be tricky for many children. Therefore, repetition is helpful. Also, reviewing the calendar every day provides excellent counting practice. Once a child can count to 30, they are well on their way to being able to count to 100. Having said that, children do get tired of reviewing the calendar every day. So long as your child has a basic understanding of the calendar by the time they start kindergarten, it is up to you whether you want to review the calendar daily or not. You could choose to review the calendar once a week or choose to focus on it daily for one month. However you choose to do it, have fun with it.

5. Weather

Learning to name the different types of weather such as, sunny, snowy, and foggy, is another thing preschoolers learn at school. Since many preschools are run indoors, teachers must be intentional not to forget to talk about the weather. At home, these conversations happen more naturally. As you discuss which type of footwear is needed for the day, or when the weather makes going to the park formidable, you can be teaching your child about the weather.

6. Bonus: Bible stories

In many Christian preschools, Bible reading is an important part of the schedule. Some of the Christian preschools I’ve taught at always read one Bible story every week from a children’s illustrated Bible. When I read a Bible story to my class, I like to pause and sing the “B-I-B-L-E” first to remind everyone that this isn’t just another storybook. The Bible is special and true. If you don’t know the song, I explain the actions and link to a video of it in my post here: 7 Simple Christian Songs for Preschoolers

I highly recommend The Beginner’s Bible by Zondervankidz . They also have free printable colouring sheets and activities on their website here that match the illustrations in it.

I hope this information is helpful to you as you teach your child at home!

You may also find my  Ready for Kindergarten post helpful.

If you have questions you’d like to ask a preschool teacher, feel free to comment below or fill out my  contact form.

Apple, pencils, and blocks on a desk with title over them

A wealth of information exists about child development and what a preschool child needs to know in order to be ready for kindergarten. Depending on where you live and which kindergarten your child will attend next year, the specifics of what they need to know will vary. Regardless, if you focus on these five core areas, your child will be well on their way to being ready for kindergarten.

Of course, there are other areas, such as social and emotional development, that must be matured in order to be ready for kindergarten, but that’s another topic for another time. So, without further ado, here are the top 5 key ways to prepare your child academically for kindergarten.

1. ABCs

This is usually the first thing parents think of when they think about getting their child ready for kindergarten. Singing the alphabet song is a great start, but don’t stop there.

  • Letter recognition
    • Help your child learn to recognize and name the letters. This takes plenty of repetition. Perhaps buy or print an alphabet poster. Point to each letter saying the name, then later, as your child catches on, ask them the name of the letter you’re pointing to. Be sure to mix up the order when you teach your child the letter names, otherwise, they may simply memorize the order of the letters, rather than their shapes. Additionally, throughout your day, when you come across writing, ask your child to name the letters they see.
  • Letter sounds
    • While letter names are important, their sounds are even more critical for learning to read. Ideally, a child who is entering kindergarten should have a strong grasp of the concept that every letter makes a sound and that letters put together make words. They should know many of the letter sounds.  For ideas of how to teach letter sounds to your child, check out this post:  Teaching the ABCs
  • Write own name
    • There is a long standing debate among kindergarten and preschool teachers about who should be teaching children to write. Some teachers argue that children who learn to write incorrectly form bad habits that are hard to break later. Other teachers would disagree with that. Due to this on-going debate, I do not emphasize teaching your child to write all their letters during their preschool years. Girl writingIf they show interest in learning to write, by all means, do not hold them back. Perhaps buy them a workbook that shows which way to write each letter. The big key in teaching children to write correctly is thinking about where we start a letter. When we write “M”, we start at the top for each line. When we write “Z” it is one continuous line. A good rule of thumb to follow is that most letters start at the top.
    • While I do not emphasize writing the whole alphabet, I strongly encourage parents to teach their child to recognize and write their own name before reaching kindergarten. There are loads of fantastic ideas about how to do this on the internet. Try finding one that suits your child’s interests.

2. Counting

Numbers are another of those things that can be taught and practiced throughout the day. “How many apple slices do you want for snack?” “I see you have one, two, three cars parked in the garage.” Teaching numbers really isn’t hard.

  • Counting aloud
    • In order to be ready for kindergarten, children should be able to accurately count out loud up to twenty. Being able to count to thirty would be even better.
  • Number recognition
    • On top of being able to count, they should be able to recognize the written numbers from 0-10. Be sure to practice recognizing these numbers out of order.

3. Fine Motor Skills

Fine motor muscles are simply the hand muscles designed to do small detailed tasks such as holding a pencil or putting beads on a string. If a child’s fine motor muscles are weak, they will find it difficult to hold their pencil correctly. Therefore, focusing on exercising these small hand muscles is a key part of getting ready for kindergarten. Here are a few fun ways to help strengthen your child’s fine motor muscles.

  • Playdough
    • Playing with playdough, or slime for that matter, is an excellent way to strengthen these muscles. While they roll and pull and poke, they are preparing their hand to hold a pencil well.
  • Colouring/Painting
    • Colouring with pencil crayons or crayons also exercises those hand muscles. Did you know that it has sometimes been recommended to give children small broken crayons to colour with? That is because using a crayon that is only an inch or two long forces a child to use more hand muscles since it is too small to be gripped in their fist.
    • Painting with cotton swabs is another super fine motor muscle builder. Using paintbrushes or other painting tools may also work well. Here’s a list of some creative ways to paint that your kids will enjoy:  Beyond the Paintbrush
  • Scissors
    • From my experience, scissor skills are often a forgotten thing. Once a child is three or four, they are capable of using child safety scissors while being supervised. (Supervision with scissors is important as this is also the age of self hair cuts.) Teaching your child to use scissors will strengthen their fine motor muscles. On top of that, your child’s kindergarten teacher will be grateful if your child is fairly competent at using the scissors.
    • When teaching scissors, use the rule of thumb – the thumb always goes on the top, both in how the child is holding their scissors and how they are holding their paper. One simple cutting activity is to give your child an old flyer and let them cut it into a million tiny bits.
  • Other muscles
    • While we’re on the topic of strengthening muscles, just a quick reminder that gross motor activities, such as running, jumping, climbing, throwing a ball, etc. are important too. Not only are they valuable for developing your child’s muscles, such activities also have a huge positive impact on child brain development.

4. Broad Knowledge

Having a wide base of general knowledge helps children feel more confident and enables them to more easily grasp new concepts by connecting them to concepts they already know. Therefore, it is valuable for a child to be exposed to a broad range of learning opportunities. This doesn’t have to be complicated. Rather, during your day to day activities, take the opportunities that come. Do you see an orange butterfly? Point it out to your child. Is a cement truck driving by? Tell your child what it is and what it does. In this way, by the time they are ready for kindergarten, your child will have gained a broad range of knowledge that will serve as a launchpad to learning so much more. Here are some things to keep in mind.

  • Shapes and colours
    • Part of the broad knowledge children should have by kindergarten includes being able to recognize and name basic colours and shapes. Again, teaching this doesn’t have to be complicated. As you go about your day, comment about various shapes and colours as you come across them.
  • Read booksGirl reading book
    • I can’t emphasize this enough. Books are a fantastic way to give your child a wider base of knowledge than your home can give. Read stories about space or under the sea. The options are endless! Most cities have public libraries that are very low cost or free. If you sign up, you’ll never run out of new books to read.
    • Reading books with your child is also a huge part of preparing them to learn to read. Therefore, I strongly encourage you to make storytime a part of your everyday routine.  Here are some fun interactive book suggestions to get you started. 7 Fantastic Animal Guessing Books for Preschoolers
  • Educational screen time
    • While I encourage limiting or avoiding screen time for preschoolers, if you are going to give your child screen time, make sure it is positive and educational. There are many good options out there. For TV shows, I highly recommend Octonaughts. It is scientific and the social interactions between characters are largely positive.

5. Love of Learning

I’ve left this point until last as I want to be sure you remember it. Having a desire to learn is more important to school success than knowing the alphabet inside out. Therefore, as you’re teaching your child the things above, be sure to keep it fun. 

  • Lead by example
    • Keep in mind that your child is likely to pick up on your attitude. If you are excited about learning and asking questions, they will be too. With this in mind, be curious about things. Ask questions like, “I wonder how bees know where to find the flowers?” It’s okay if you don’t know the answer.
  • Learn what they love
    • Encourage your child to learn about what they love. Of course, this is not an excuse to avoid learning things that are important but less exciting to the child. However, especially at this young age, you could use what they love to help teach them other things. Do they love zoo animals? Find an animal ABCs book.
    • Having said that, I would encourage parents to try to focus on the broad open-ended interests of their child. If your child’s favourite is Paw Patrol, try buying them a set of toy dogs rather than a Paw Patrol toy. Why? Because a toy dog set provides a far greater range of potential play possibilities than a specifically Paw Patrol toy would.

In summary, preparing your child for kindergarten doesn’t have to be difficult. Be intentional to seize the learning opportunities in your day to day life and your child will be well on their way to being ready for kindergarten. While you’re at it, be sure to have plenty of fun. Learning ought to be a captivating adventure.

Toys laying abandoned.

Are your kids bored of their toys? Are they disengaged and uninterested? Try rotating their toys.

Toy rotation is highly beneficial in preschools, daycares, day homes and even in everyday family life.

Benefits of toy rotation

  • After a toy is packed away for a length of time, children become excited to play with it again because they haven’t seen it for so long.Child surrounded by toys
  • Putting away some toys for rotation may leave your child with less toys to play with. Believe it or not, this can lead to deeper engagement with the few toys that are available. With too many toys a child may bounce from one toy to another, rather than fully playing with any one toy. Sometimes less is truly more.
  • Having fewer toys available also shrinks the amount of mess a child can make with their toys at any given time.

How long should toys be available?

The answer depends greatly on your child, your child’s age, and the toy itself. Because the recommended length of time is so situationally dependent, watch how engaged your child is. When they show signs of being less engaged, it’s time to rotate. Be aware, leaving toys out, until your child is bored, may significantly decrease their excitement at seeing those toys again later. Therefore, try to do the rotating on a high note so they will associate good memories with the toys for next time.

Older children, such as elementary aged children, may be able to regulate the rotating themselves. Store all their toys on a shelf. Allow them to get out and play with only one or two types of toys at a time – perhaps the cars and the blocks. When the elementary aged children realize they are getting tired of the toy, they will ask to get out a different type of toy. Have them first clean up and put away the toy they are tired of, then they may get out the next toy. In this way, they can take some responsibility for rotating their own toys.

What about at preschools and daycares, etc?Child playing with wooden blocks

I have been a part of preschools and daycares who rotated their toys once a week, every other week, once a month, or never. Where the toys were never rotated, the children were extremely bored. They engaged in very little meaningful play and often misbehaved.

I personally would recommend rotating the toys every week or two. Some toys, such as large wooden blocks, may not need rotating as often, while other toys, such as puzzles, may only engage each child for one sitting and therefore benefit from frequent rotation.

Toy rotation in preschool and daycare settings comes with the benefit of providing a good toy washing routine. Every time new toys are set out, the old ones can be washed and left to dry before being packed away.

Does toy rotation make a difference?

My years of experience have given me reason to enthusiastically say “yes!” Have you seen the difference toy rotation makes?