Thursday, April 18, 2013

Cutting Practice for Preschoolers

Two of the children JUST turned 3. Within the week. While they are fairly advanced cognitively, their fine-motor skills are age appropriate. So we need to work on cutting regularly.  They began cutting with teacher-assist scissors around 18 months - 2 years and at 2 1/2 we begin independent cutting with auto-open scissors. 

Now, at 3, we are ready to get serious about independent cutting. Regular scissors are hard at first, and they still need a lot of help. 

I dislike that so many times children are introduced to scissors via the dictate that they cut on a line, or do a specific task, usually just with construction paper. That's just not very fun. 

Actually it is BORRRRING!

And cutting is FUN. 

Or should be. Funky shapes can be created, and you never REALLY know what you'll end up with once you start cutting, or just how many small bits you can get out of one piece of something...without EXPERIMENTING. There are also hand muscles involved that need training and strengthening. Cutting one thing, usually paper, every so often, does VERY little to enhance the imagination or body conditioning.

Cutting is IMPORTANT.
  • Helps develop dominant and helping hands
  • Strengths hand-eye coordination
  • Greatly strengthens hand muscles, along with upper body
  • Works crossing the mid-line
  • Works spatial awareness
  • Works geometric awareness
  • Works linear positioning
  • Allows creative expression
  • Allows sensory exploration
  • Promotes independence
I teach to have the first finger out for stability [from a children's physical therapist], and "Point your thumb to the sky!" for proper hand position, "Elbow in tight!" for control, and "Paper moves, not scissors. Scissors only open and close!

Once they are cutting like pros, then I don't stress the index finger out. I've seen a couple of blog posts by others that mention putting a smiley face on the child's thumb so that they can "see" the proper thumb position. I love that idea for any child that doesn't "get" it easily.

So, yes, we do cutting for art projects [more than just PAPER], but they also get to have free-for-all days to experiment and practice with a vast variety of materials. Here's what is currently in our cutting practice bin:
  • construction paper
  • ribbon
  • yarn
  • sandpaper
  • foil
  • wax paper
  • envelope
  • plastic bag
  • magazine
  • napkin
  • cupcake liner
  • doily
  • string
  • netting
  • paper plate
  • crimped paper grass
  • straws
  • crepe paper streamers
  • tissue paper
  • card stock
  • clear plastic sheeting
  • thin felt
  • raffia
  • vinyl wallpaper
  • bubble wrap
  • nubby vinyl shelf liner
  • metallic fabric
  • thin packing foam
A good variety of textures to practice upon, with nothing overly difficult to cut for this age group, but some still challenging. At the end of a practice session, we pick up all the pieces still a decent size and toss the bitty bits into the trash.

It is definitely stressed that we only cut ART MATERIALS...WHEN ALLOWED, and that cutting without an adult present, or cutting anything we aren't given permission to cut, is NOT OKAY and will have dire consequences and revocation of cutting privileges. But, temptation to preschoolers is SO difficult to resist...

Maybe it shouldn't be THIS much fun. 

Mr. G and Miss B did some custom salon work on themselves just prior to Christmas after an older cousin swiped some scissors. Large, pointy, SHARP scissors. Their mother wanted me to state in here that excellent scissors skills SAVE LIVES. Seriously. These children didn't take out an eye or even nick themselves or cause any other damage because they had enough skill to accomplish their set task in a relatively safe manner. Hair cutting. Miss H did her own hair cutting thing over the same time off school. Attention diverted elsewhere during the holidays = opportunity glorified.  

Consequences for these poor decisions against the rules were reinforced at school upon their return.

DON'T leave scissors unattended or attainable for children. Even 5-6 year olds really aren't responsible enough to have unsupervised access. A former student cut the fringe off a $4000 hand knotted wool rug at a relative's house at the age of 6, again during the holidays. She was a highly gifted student and very much knew better.
Tags: preschool, cutting, cutting practice, toddler, introduction, introducing, scissor, scissors, skill, daycare, child, care, pre-k, art, craft, hand, strength, fine motor, development

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